It will hopefully not come as a surprise that the Supreme Court have restated the position that planning cannot be bought. R (on the application of Wright) v Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd and Forest of Dean District Council.
Here, the Council had granted permission for a change of use of a farm from agriculture to the erection of a single community scale 500kW wind turbine for the generation of electricity.
The applicant proposed that the wind turbine would be erected and run by a community benefit society. The application included a promise that an annual donation would be made to a local community fund, based on 4% of the society’s turnover from the operation of the turbine over its projected life of 25 years. In deciding to grant planning permission for the development the Council expressly took into account the community fund donation.
A local resident challenged the grant of planning permission on the grounds that the promised community fund donation was not a “material consideration” (for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and similar planning legislation) and the Council had acted unlawfully by taking it into account.
The Supreme Court agreed, as the community benefits to be provided by the applicant did not affect the use of the land, and that the proposals breached the principle that a planning permission cannot be bought or sold.
It is interesting to note that Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, made a submission to the court in the Council’s favour suggesting that the principles should be updated “to a modern and expanded understanding of planning purposes” but this was rejected by the Court, as it is for Parliament to amend the statutory framework.