Many local planning policies favour residential development of sites that ‘immediately adjoin’ existing settlements – but what exactly does that mean? The Court of Appeal has provided comprehensive guidance on that issue in an important ruling.
The case concerned a proposal to construct a house and garage within the grounds of a substantial Victorian property. The development, in an area of great landscape value, would replace an existing garage, store and utility room.
In granting planning permission for the development, the local authority focused on a local planning policy that encouraged residential developments of appropriate scale on previously developed sites immediately adjoining existing settlements.
Challenging the permission by way of judicial review, a local parish councillor argued that the council had misinterpreted and misapplied that policy. He asserted, amongst other things, that the site could not be said to immediately adjoin an existing hamlet in that they were physically separated by a road. His case was, however, dismissed by a judge.
Rejecting his appeal against that outcome, the Court described the council’s reading and application of the policy as unimpeachable. The term ‘immediately adjoining’, in a planning context, should not be given an unduly prescriptive meaning and allows for both a degree of flexibility and the exercise of planning judgment.
The expression does not necessarily mean contiguous, coterminous, next to or even very near. It enables planning decision-makers to form their own views as to whether a proposed development is sufficiently close to an existing settlement to be regarded as immediately adjoining it. In this case, that is precisely what the council did and its decision was neither irrational nor otherwise unlawful.