In making his 'think-again' order Mr justice Gibbs ruled that the council had failed to give adequate and intelligible reasons for rejecting the recommendation of a local planning inspector who had taken the view there was nothing inappropriate about the plans for the development.
Norwich-based East Anglia Property Ltd, and its director, Alan Jones, who own the land, claimed that the council had made provision for five homes on their two hectares of land on Thrigby Road, Filby, in its draft Local Plan, but ultimately rejected the plans after local objection.
However, the company argued that a Local Plan inspector had concluded, in a report into objections to the scheme in April 1998, that: the development would not be inappropriate; the site was unexceptional in any respect; the contribution it made to the setting of the village was strictly limited; and the site had the capacity to accommodate development in depth.
The council, at that point, accepted the inspector's recommendations and modified the draft Local Plan to allow development at the site, subject to a limit of five houses.
But then, in September 1999, the council's borough-wide Local Plan working party considered a report on new objections received about the plans, and ultimately, in May 2000, the council decided to reject the residential development scheme. It stated that it had resolved to attach different weights to relevant planning issues from the inspector.
However, the landowners' lawyer, Peter Village, argued in court that the council had failed to make its reasons clear for rejecting the inspector's recommendations, and said that his clients were 'left to speculate on what precisely were the reasons behind the council's decision.'
He said: 'In merely resolving that it attached different weights to the relevant planning issues, the council failed to identify which of the planning issues it placed greater weight upon, and why.'
Michael Dowling, for the council, had argued that the council had given clear reasons for its decision in an officer's report to the working party, and that the decision should not be quashed in any event because the final outcome was likely to be the same when the matter was reconsidered.
Now, Mr justice Gibbs has backed the landowners' claim, and ordered the council to rethink its decision on the allocation of residential development at the site.
He said that the lack of reasoning left it unclear on what basis the decision had been reached, and also left him unable to predict what the result might be when the matter falls to be reconsidered.
He said: 'I do notthink that it can be said that the outcome is likely to be the same - it may be the same, it may not be. Justice requires that the decision should not stand. It must therefore be quashed and the matter sent back for reconsideration by the council.'
STRAND NEWS SERVICE