Mistakes made by planners can have grave consequences stretching far into the future. That was certainly so in the case of a permission which was inadvertently granted for a massive expansion of a holiday park in the midst of an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
The park, made up of lodges, caravans and camping facilities, was long established on a coastal site. The planning permission, granted in 2014, was intended to do no more than extend the park’s opening times. Attached to it, however, was a plan on which a red line demarcated an area of land far larger than the existing park.
The line encompassed roughly 22 hectares of land – all of it within the AONB and most of it owned by third parties – on which no caravans or lodges had previously been placed. Some years passed before the mistake was detected and a local residents’ association launched a judicial review challenge to the permission.
The local authority and the park’s owner agreed that a mistake had been made. The latter, however, defended the permission on the basis that the association’s case had been lodged far too late. Challenges to planning permissions must generally be brought within six weeks but, in this case, six and a half years had passed.
In quashing the permission, however, the High Court described the case as unique. The council had erroneously granted consent for a different purpose, and in respect of a different area of land, than it intended. The permission was in clear conflict with a number of local and national planning policies and no thought had been given to the objective of conserving and enhancing the AONB.
The Court acknowledged that not all of the exceptionally long delay in launching the proceedings was readily explicable and that the park’s owner would suffer some financial and other prejudice if the permission were quashed. The overriding factor, however, was the harm to the AONB that would flow from upholding the consent.
The interests of the credibility of the planning system also weighed heavily in favour of quashing the permission. The Court noted that it would be very hard to explain to a member of the public why a permission that was granted in complete error should remain extant.