Fawcett Properties Ltd v Buckingham County Council: HL 1960

A grant of planning permission was subject to an agricultural occupancy condition: ‘The occupation of the houses shall be limited to persons whose employment or latest employment is or was employment in agriculture as defined by section 119(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, or in forestry or in any industry mainly dependent upon agriculture and including also the dependants of such persons as aforesaid.’
It was argued that the condition (i) was ultra vires the statutory power to grant planning permission subject to conditions and/or (ii) was void for uncertainty.
Held: The appeal failed. The term ‘dependants’ means persons living in a family with the person defined (the agricultural occupant), and dependent on him (or her) in whole or in part of their subsistence and support. A condition will be void for uncertainty only if it can be given no meaning or no sensible or ascertainable meaning, and not merely because it is ambiguous or leads to absurd results.
Lord Keith of Avonholm rejected the argument as to uncertaincy, saying: ‘Reading the condition as a whole I do not find any insuperable difficulty in arriving at a reasonable and clear idea of the content of the condition. It refers in the first place to ‘the occupation of the houses’, which I read as being confined to occupation by persons having certain defined qualifications and to the dependants of these persons. There may be a certain ambiguity here, but your Lordships are not concerned here with resolving ambiguities or placing a considered and final meaning on the condition. Speaking for myself I would not read the occupation as covering an independent occupation by dependants of the persons mentioned, but as including occupation by such dependants while living in family with such persons and occupying the houses along with them. Death, or removal from the houses, of the persons defined would terminate the occupation of the dependants. Nor can I see any difficulty in construing ‘dependants’, when brought within the confines of a house, as meaning persons living in family with the person defined and dependent on him in whole or part for their subsistence and support ‘
Lord Denning summarised the relevant principles relating to the imposition of planning conditions, including that they must fairly and reasonably relate to the permitted development, and said: ‘The condition, properly construed with the reason, means, I think, that the occupation of the cottages must be limited to persons who are employed in agriculture in the locality or in a local industry mainly dependent upon agriculture in the locality. The word ‘occupation’ is used to denote the head of the household. The word ‘latest’ to show that he may stay on in the cottages after his retirement. The word ‘dependants’ to show that he may have with him his wife and family and anyone else dependent on him. So construed it seems to me that the condition fairly and reasonably relates to the permitted development. Its effect is to ensure that the cottages will be occupied by persons who will help to maintain the normal life and character of this part of the green belt and not by outsiders to use as a dormitory. The cottages are for farm-workers or for men who work at the smith shoeing horses, at the mill grinding the corn, or at the saw mills cutting up wood; or in modern times at the milk depot bottling the milk or at the repair shop mending the tractors; and so forth. They are not for people who go up and down to London every day’
Lord Denning stated: ‘a planning condition is only void for uncertainty if it can be given no meaning or no sensible or ascertainable meaning, and not merely because it is ambiguous or leads to absurd results. It is the daily task of the courts to resolve ambiguities of language and to choose between them; and to construe words so as to avoid absurdities or to put up with them. And this applies to conditions in planning permissions as well as to other documents.’


Lord Keith of Avonholm, Lord Denning


[1961] AC 636, [1960] 3 All ER 503


Town and Country Planning Act 1947 14(1)


England and Wales


Appeal fromFawcett Properties Ltd v Buckingham County Council CA 1959
The landowner made an attempt to strike down as ultra vires a condition attached to a planning permission. The condition related to an agricultural use condition where the occupant was not substantially dependent upon income from what was described . .

Cited by:

CitedShortt v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another Admn 22-Jul-2014
. .
CitedShortt and Another v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another CA 18-Nov-2015
Appeal concerning the meaning of ‘dependants’ in an agricultural occupancy condition attached to a planning permission: ‘The occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to persons employed or last employed solely or mainly and locally in agriculture . .
CitedBroads Authority v Fry Admn 5-Nov-2015
The boat owner had charged tolls against the respondent boat owner. He failed to pay saying that his vessel being moored at a private mooring on ‘adjacent water’ he was not liable. His appeal against his conviction had succeeded at the Crown Court, . .
CitedTrump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd and Another v The Scottish Ministers (Scotland) SC 16-Dec-2015
The appellant challenged the grant of permission to the erection of wind turbines within sight of its golf course.
Held: The appeal failed. The challenge under section 36 was supported neither by the language or structure of the 1989 Act, and . .
CitedAberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Planning Authority v Elsick Development Company Limited SC 25-Oct-2017
The court was asked whether, anticipating substantial growth, a local authority had power to attach to permissions for development conditions intended to recover sums for pooled fund for infrastructure development.
Held: The appeal failed. . .
CitedWright, Regina (on The Application of Wright) v Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd and Another SC 20-Nov-2019
W challenged the grant of planning permission for the change of use of agricultural land to allow erection of a wind turbine, saying that the authority had taken into account a promise by the land owner to run the scheme as a community development . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Planning, Agriculture

Updated: 09 May 2022; Ref: scu.554792