The court has ordered deputy prime minister John Prescott, as the ultimate head of planning, to have the matter reconsidered.
Deputy George Bartlett QC backed the developer's claim, that the inspector was wrong to refuse permission in order to safeguard the provision of sporting facilities in the area, ruling that since the health club was demolished, the sporting facilities on the land had already been 'lost'.
He said it was not enough that a planning permission was in place for a replacement facility, and backed WE Black's claim that there appeared to be no prospect of a new facility actually being implemented, and that there was no provision for sporting facilities on the site in the area's local plan.
He said: 'It is of course important to bear in mind that the purpose of planning policies is to prevent the loss of facilities. But it is impossible, in my judgment, to treat them as preventing development where the facilities have already been lost.
'What takes the circumstances of this case outside the range of circumstances to which these policies could reasonably be held to apply is that the recreational or sports facility consisted entirely in the use of a building that has now been demolished.'
Chesham-based Black purchased the site in order to pursue the development, which would include two, three and four bedroom houses. Chiltern District Council refused permission, Black then appealed, but the planning inspector who heard their case also rejected the scheme.
In May 2004, the council refused planning permission for 15 houses on the other half of the sub-divided site, which is owned by Anduff Holdings Ltd.