Village Housing Development Falls Foul of Habitat Protection Rules

Environmental issues are inexorably making their way to the top of the political agenda and that is increasingly reflected in the planning system. In a case on point, the High Court overturned permission for a residential development on the basis that habitat protection rules had not been followed. 

A developer wished to demolish a riding stables and arena on the edge of a village and replace them with 30 new homes. Planning consent was refused by the local authority but that decision was subsequently reversed by a planning inspector. The inspector found that, although the scheme conflicted with the local development plan, the social benefits of the proposals in providing much-needed housing, including affordable homes, outweighed any disadvantages. 

After the local parish council challenged that decision, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government conceded that there had been a failure to carry out an appropriate assessment of the effects of the development and that that failure amounted to an error of law. Such an assessment was required by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 because the proposal site was set within a Special Protection Area. 

In overturning the permission, the Court accepted that the error may have distorted the planning balance in favour of the development. There were factors weighing against the granting of planning permission and the Court could not be satisfied that, had the error not occurred, the outcome would inevitably have been the same. 


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