Bryan -v- The United Kingdom; ECHR 22-Nov-1995

Bryan was a farmer at Warrington in Cheshire. He built two brick buildings on land in a conservation area without planning permission and the planning authority served an enforcement notice for their demolition. He appealed on grounds (a) (that planning permission should be granted), (b) (that there had been no breach of planning control) and two other grounds. The Secretary of State appointed an inspector who rejected the appeal on ground (a) because the buildings did not enhance or preserve the appearance of the conservation area. On ground (b), Mr Bryan contended that the buildings were “designed for the purpose of agriculture” and that planning permission for them was deemed to have been granted. The applicant was served with an enforcement notice requiring him to demolish the buildings. He complained that the inspector’s decision did not satisfy article 6(1). The court and the Commission described the role of the inspector and the procedures to be followed under the Town and Country Planning Act including both his duty under the Framework Directive of the Secretary of State to exercise independent judgment and not to be or to be seen to be subject to any improper influence and to act fairly but at the same time to have regard to the policies promulgated by the Secretary of State on matters of planning. The Commission accepted that there had been a fair hearing before the inspector. Because however the inspector’s appointment to hear the appeal could be revoked in a situation where the executive’s own policies may be in issue, the inspector did not satisfy the requirements of article 6 that there must be an independent and impartial tribunal.
Held: The inspector’s hearing had been fair, given the national court’s powers of review.
UK Planning appeal procedures were not in breach of the human rights convention. If, at the end of whatever is the overall process in question, there is a fully Article 6 compliant court or tribunal to give fair consideration to the case, Article 6 is not engaged at the earlier stage(s). The court noted, however, that an appeal to the High Court was only on points of law and therefore: “not capable of embracing all aspects of the inspector’s decision. . . In particular, as is not infrequently the case in relation to administrative law appeals in the Council of Europe member states, there was no rehearing as such of the original complaints submitted to the inspector; the High Court could not substitute its own decision on the merits for that of the inspector; and its jurisdiction over the facts was limited.”

Court: ECHR
Date: 22-Nov-1995
Judges: Ryssdal, P
Statutes: European Cionvention on Human Rights 6
Links: Times, Worldlii, ECHR, Bailii,
References: 19178/91, 44/1994/491/573, [1995] ECHR 50, [1996] 28 EG 137, [1996] 2 EGLR 123, [1996] 1 PLR 47, (1996) 21 EHRR 342
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