“A judge has dismissed all seven grounds on which a developer sought to challenge the Community Secretary’s decision to reject a planning inspector’s recommendation.
The case concerned Arun District Council’s refusal to grant permission to developer Keith Langmead to build 100 homes at Yapton, West Sussex.
An inspector recommended that Langmead’s appeal be allowed, but this was overturned by the Secretary of State.
Giving judgment in Keith Langmead Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor  EWHC 788, Mrs Justice Lang noted the Secretary of State had concluded the appeal did not accord with either the overall local plan or Yapton’s neighbourhood plan.
Arun lacked the five-year supply of housing sites required by the National Planing Policy Framework (NPPF) and so could be liable to the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
But the Secretary of State concluded that the proposed development did not comply with the social element of sustainability, and the “adverse impacts of this proposal would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the identified benefits”.
Langmead appealed on the grounds that the Secretary of State misunderstood and misinterpreted the NPPF, failed to apply it correctly, failed to take into account the independent examiner’s reservations about the Neighbourhood Plan and made a decision internally inconsistent with regard to the weight given to the local plan.
The company also argued that the decision was irrational and failed to give adequate reasons.
Lang J said the Secretary of State’s decision “did not disclose any misinterpretation or misapplication of the NPPF”, while it was unlikely that any material change came to his notice at the right time.
The inspector’s view had been incorporated and the Secretary of State “disagreed with the inspector’s conclusions, as he was entitled to do”.
Langmead had obtained by disclosure a copy of the internal planning casework division (PCD)’s submission to the Secretary of State to allow the appeal and while the decision letter did not mention this “it seems very unlikely that the Secretary of State failed to consider it, since an internal submission of this kind would usually be a helpful starting point for the minister”, the judge noted.
She said: “Although this appeal was controversial, it was not especially complex, in fact or law. The reasons in the [decision letter] were adequate and intelligible.
“In my view, the claimant knew full well the Secretary of State’s conclusions on the principal important controversial issues. Its real complaint was that the conclusions reached were unreasonable and misguided.”
The judge added: “The Secretary of State was entitled to make up his own mind, and reach a different conclusion to that of the PCD and the inspector.”