Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Planning Permission in the Green Belt – the very special circumstances test

Redhill Aerodrome Limited -v- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Tandridge District Council [2014] EWHC 2476 (Admin)

By: Marc Willers QC, Garden Court Chambers

The planning policy governing the provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites is to be found in Planning policy for traveller sites (2012) and the policy governing all forms of development in the Green Belt is to be found in Part 9 of the National Planning Policy Framework (2012). Like other types of housing, Gypsy and Traveller caravan sites are considered to be inappropriate development in the Green Belt and they will only be granted planning permission if ‘very special circumstances’ exist.

Paragraph 88 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that:  ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations’.

The meaning of the phrase ‘any other harm’ was considered recently by the High Court in Redhill Aerodrome Limited v SSCLG and Tandridge DC [2014] EWHC 2476 (Admin). The case concerned a challenge brought against a Planning Inspector’s decision to dismiss an appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the construction of a runway in the Green Belt.

Mrs Justice Patterson heard the case and quashed the decision having concluded that the phrase ‘any other harm’ should be restricted to harm to the Green Belt and that the Planning Inspector had wrongly taken account of harm to landscape character and visual amenity when considering whether ‘very special circumstances’ existed to justify the proposed development.

The judgment in the Redhill Aerodrome case is clearly important to Gypsies and Travellers who seek planning permission for sites in the Green Belt. A number have already applied to the High Court to quash planning appeal decisions in circumstances where it seems that the Secretary of State has wrongly taken account of harm (other than to the Green Belt) when assessing whether very special circumstances exist to warrant the grant of planning permission for their caravan sites.

See: Redhill Aerodrome Limited -v- SSCLG Judgment