Ball – v – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Brentwood Borough Council  EWCA Civ 372, 11 March 2014.
The Appellant was seeking planning permission for change of use of land to provide 6 residential Gypsy/Traveller pitches. This was refused by the local authority and he appealed to the Planning Inspector. Mr Pickles, the Constituency MP, put in a strong objection to the appeal.
The General Election then took place and Mr Pickles was appointed as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (SSCLG). After that date the appeal was called in for a decision by the SSCLG. However, due to the objection from Mr Pickles, the matter was dealt with by Mr Neill MP, the Under Secretary of State. The Planning Inspector recommended permanent permission. The SSCLG’s advisers recommended temporary permission. Mr Neill decided to refuse permission. The appeal was dismissed by Stuart-Smith J and the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis of:-
i) Perceived bias;
ii) Failure to take account of the best interests of the children.
The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal.
Sullivan LJ, giving the leading Judgment of the Court of Appeal, stated:-
23. …Mr Rudd [for the Appellant] submitted that it was not proper for officials ‘to come up with reasons for refusal’ after the minister’s decision to refuse. That decision had to be taken for proper planning reasons, and, in the absence of any minutes of the meeting in September 2010, he submitted that we could not be certain what what the minister’s reasons might have been.
26. On further analysis, Mr Rudd’s complaint about the train of events in this case was limited to a very narrow point indeed, that there is no minute of the September 2010 meeting which records the minister’s reasons for disagreeing with planning casework’s advice and wishing to refuse planning permission.
27. In my judgment, this complaint has no substance.
On the question of the best interests of the children, Sullivan J stated:-
41. It emerged during the course of Mr Rudd’s oral submissions that the sole basis for the contention that the Secretary of State had failed to have proper regard to the best interests of the children on the site is the fact that the Secretary of State took the view that the inspector had been wrong to attribute considerable weight to the site occupants’ personal need for suitable accommodation, and instead had attributed moderate weight to the occupants’ personal need for accommodation. Mr Rudd’s submission was that, while the Secretary of State was entitled as a matter of planning judgment to reduce the weight he attributed to the personal needs of the adult occupants of the site for suitable accommodation because they had moved on to the site knowing that it was subject to an enforcement notice, he was not entitled to reduce the weight to be attributed to the children’s personal need for suitable accommodation on that basis, because the sins of the parents could not properly be visited upon their children.
47. The submission that the Secretary of State in some way blamed the children on the site for the fact that their parents had moved onto the site in the knowledge that it was subject to an enforcement notice, is based on plucking two sentences….of the decision letter out of context, and in reading them in a manner that fails to accord with the approach that one should adopt when construing decision letters of this kind – namely to read them in a common sense way. It is plain that in those two sentences, the Secretary of State was concerned with the conduct of the adult occupiers of the site and was in no way seeking to blame the children for the sins of their parents.
It is understood that the Appellant is seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. See judgment attached.