South Buckinghamshire District Council and Another v Porter (No 2): HL 1 Jul 2004

Mrs Porter was a Romany gipsy who bought land in the Green Belt in 1985 and lived there with her husband in breach of planning control. The inspector gave her personal permission to continue use, and it had been appealed and cross appealed on the basis that the inspector’s reasons were insufficient.
Held: Wherever an occupier seeks to rely upon the very fact of his continuing use of land it must be material to recognise the unlawfulness (if such it was) of that use as a consideration operating to weaken his claim. A development without planning permission unlawful only in being in breach of planning control. Where it has been persisted in for many years despite being enforced against, that is rather characterised as criminal. In this case the illegality had little effect. Appeal allowed.
Lord Brown summarised the content of the duty on inspectors: ‘The reasons for a decision must be intelligible and they must be adequate. They must enable the reader to understand why the matter was decided as it was and what conclusions were reached on the ‘principal important controversial issues’, disclosing how any issue of law or fact was resolved. Reasons can be briefly stated, the degree of particularity required depending entirely on the nature of the issues falling for decision. The reasoning must not give rise to a substantial doubt as to whether the decision-maker erred in law, for example by misunderstanding some relevant policy or some other important matter or by failing to reach a rational decision on relevant grounds. But such adverse inference will not readily be drawn. The reasons need refer only to the main issues in the dispute, not to every material consideration. They should enable disappointed developers to assess their prospects of obtaining some alternative development permission, or, as the case may be, their unsuccessful opponents to understand how the policy or approach underlying the grant of permission may impact upon future such applications. Decision letters must be read in a straightforward manner, recognising that they are addressed to parties well aware of the issues involved and the arguments advanced. A reasons challenge will only succeed if the party aggrieved can satisfy the court that he has genuinely been substantially prejudiced by the failure to provide an adequately reasoned decision. ‘


Lord Steyn, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood


[2004] UKHL 33, Times 02-Jul-2004, [2003] 2 AC 558, [2004] 1 WLR 1953, [2004] 4 All ER 775, [2004] 28 EGCS 177, [2004] NPC 108


Bailii, House of Lords


England and Wales


Appeal fromSouth Bucks District Council v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and Linda Porter CA 19-May-2003
The applicant, a gipsy had occupied land she had bought. Her occupation was in breach of planning control. The inspector found exceptional cirumstances for allowing her to continue to live there. The authority appealed.
Held: The inspector had . .
CitedWestminster City Council v Great Portland Estates plc HL 31-Oct-1984
The House was asked whether the 1971 Act permitted the relevant authorities, by resort to their development plans, to support the retention of traditional industries or was the ambit of the Act such as to permit only ‘land use’ aims to be pursued? . .
CitedBolton Metropolitan District Council and Others v Secretary of State for the Environment and Others HL 25-May-1995
There had been an application in 1986 for planning permission for a shopping centre in Trafford. There were two public enquiries, followed, as public policy changed by further representations. The plaintiff complained that the eventual decision . .
CitedSave Britain’s Heritage v Number 1 Poultry Ltd HL 28-Feb-1991
An order allowing demolition of a listed building was possible even though the building itself remained viable. The function of the courts was to validate the decision making process, not the merits of the decision.
Lord Bridge analysed the . .
CitedRe Poyser and Mills’ Arbitration 1963
The section at issue imposed a duty upon a tribunal to which the Act applies or any minister who makes a decision after the holding of a statutory inquiry to give reasons for their decision, if requested. A record of the reasons for a decision must . .
CitedEdwin H Bradley and Sons Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment 1982
Reasons given for a decision may be brief, whilst still following Poyser. The fact that a procedure is not in the nature of a judicial or quasi-judicial hearing between parties may mean that the requirement to give a party full opportunity to . .
CitedSouth Somerset District Council v Secretary of State for the Environment CA 1993
Following Seddon properties, when considering the degree of detail to be given by an inspector in his decision notice: ‘The inspector is not writing an examination paper . . One must look at what the inspector thought the important planning issues . .
CitedSeddon Properties Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment 1978
The court considered the degree of detail to be provided in a decision notice: ‘Since the courts will only interfere if he acts beyond his powers (which is the foundation of all the above principles), it is clear that his powers include the . .
CitedChapman v United Kingdom; similar ECHR 18-Jan-2001
The question arose as to the refusal of planning permission and the service of an enforcement notice against Mrs Chapman who wished to place her caravan on a plot of land in the Green Belt. The refusal of planning permission and the enforcement . .
CitedClarke Homes Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment CA 1993
On a challenge as to the adequacy of the reasons given for a planning decision: ‘I hope I am not over-simplifying unduly by suggesting that the central issue in this case is whether the decision of the Secretary of State leaves room for genuine as . .
CitedRegina v Leominster District Council ex parte Pothecary CA 28-Oct-1997
A building was erected without planning permission. The local planning authority chose not to serve an enforcement notice but rather had invited an application for retrospective planning permission.
Held: The fact that a building has already . .

Cited by:

CitedMid-Bedfordshire District Council v Thomas Brown and others CA 20-Dec-2004
The land owners, gypsies, had purchased agricultural land intending to occupy it as residential land in breach of green belt planning controls. The council had obtained an injunction, but appealed its suspension.
Held: The council’s appeal . .
CitedLisa Smith, Regina (on the Application of) v South Norfolk Council Admn 10-Nov-2006
The claimant gypsies had bought and moved onto land in Norfolk and stayed there in breach of planning enforcement notices. The inspector upheld the notices, but advised the Council of the difficulties in finding sites and had stayed enforcement for . .
CitedWilson, Regina (on the Application of) v Wychavon District Council and Another CA 6-Feb-2007
The claimants said that an enforcement notice issued against them under a law which would prevent such a notice against the use of a building as a dwelling, but not against use of a caravan as a dwelling, discriminated against them as gypsies.
CitedLawntown Ltd v Camenzuli and Another CA 10-Oct-2007
Objecting neighbours appealed against a decision allowing a variation of a restrictive covenant to allow the owner to convert a dwellinghouse into two self-contained apartments.
Held: The appeal failed. The power in the 1985 Act to vary a . .
CitedFriends of Basildon Golf Course v Basildon District Council and Another Admn 23-Jan-2009
The council owned land on which it ran a golf course. It set out to privatise it and sought interest. An application was made for planning permission. The applicants objected to the planning permission, saying that the Environmental Impact . .
CitedSavva, Regina (on The Application of) v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Admn 11-Mar-2010
The claimant challenged the defendant’s policies on caring for elderly people within the community saying that it provided insufficient funds, and the procedures for review were inadequate and infringed her human rights. . .
CitedRencher-Paine v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another Admn 2-Mar-2011
The applicant challenged refusal of permission for his proposed one bedroom ‘earthship dwelling’. He ran an ostrich farm on the land, and wished to occupy it instead of the caravan presently occupies with temporary permission.
Held: The appeal . .
CitedWind Prospect Developments Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another Admn 5-Dec-2014
The claimant appealed against refusal of permission to erect a six turbine wind farm. The inspector had recommended the plan, but the defendant had decided against it.
Held: The claim failed. The planning inspector’s report is the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Planning, Human Rights

Updated: 26 November 2022; Ref: scu.198541