Commercial property developers will sit up and take notice of the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold planning permission for a large retail and leisure development despite concerns that it will have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of an existing town centre.
A local authority granted planning consent for the development on an edge-of-town site in the face of objections from a supermarket chain which operated a large store on adjoining land. It also overruled a clear recommendation from the council’s chief planning officer that permission should be refused. The chain’s judicial review challenge to the permission was nevertheless rejected by a judge.
Ruling on the chain’s appeal against that outcome, the Court noted that the case hinged on Paragraph 90 of the National Planning Policy Framework, which states that planning applications for large out-of-town retail or leisure developments ‘should be refused’ if they are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of an existing town centre. The chief planning officer had advised councillors that the proposed development would have precisely that effect.
In dismissing the appeal, however, the Court emphasised that the word ‘should’, as used in Paragraph 90, does not mean ‘must’ and that councillors were not precluded from exercising their own planning judgment. In finding that objections to the development were outweighed by its economic and regenerative benefits, they had neither misinterpreted nor misapplied national or local planning policies.