Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Guildford BC v Cooper & Brazil

This site is in the Green Belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  A previous enforcement notice and planning appeal had been dismissed by the Secretary of State in 2014.  Guildford Borough Council (GBC) then declined to determine subsequent planning applications made in 2017 and 2018.  So there was nothing in the pipeline in terms of any outstanding application/appeal when the injunction application was heard earlier this year.

GBC also had serious concerns over the visibility splays at the junction with the main road and commissioned a speed survey report ahead of the final hearing.  The conclusion of the report was that any additional use of the junction would be likely to compromise road safety.  There was, however, a tree, which, if taken down, would improve the visibility at the junction but Surrey County Council (SCC) did not want to do anything about the tree.  It should be noted that 9 other properties were already using that junction so the improvement to the junction by the removal of the tree would benefit these other properties too.   GBC could have pressed SCC to use its highways powers but did not do so.

The Judge, Timothy Straker QC,  said that there had been a serious breach of planning control in the case but went on to refuse the application for an injunction.

At para 34, he said that “the children have to take centre stage” and “that both the court and the Council should seek to take that course which causes least harm to the children.”

Section 24 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act (CSCDA) 1960 was an issue of dispute the parties.  Mr Cooper had asked about a land swap and identified other land (owned by GBC) where he could be moved too.

GBC were aware that there was nowhere for the family to go and that, if the injunction was granted, the family would have to resort to roadside encampments.  At para 39 the Judge stated: “Mr Bird says that there is no evidence as to the extent of those particulars dangers which might be associated with parents and their children living by a road side.  I would respectfully [ say] it is apparent that there is clear danger in such a circumstance, and in some respects, I would suggest that it is only to be expected that there is to be such danger because children ought to be outside playing rather than being cooped up inside, but we all know there are considerable dangers which lurk by a road side.”

Straker J was concerned with the fact that GBC were content for the family to move on to the roadside.  Surely the family would be safer on the site rather than moving from one roadside encampment to another?  GBC had not fully explored all the different options (s24 CSCDA 1960and highways issues) adequately. The application was refused.

For Mr Cooper and Ms Brazil: Stephen Cottle of Garden Court Chambers and Parminder Sanghera of CLP.