A former pig farmer who claimed that he gave up his agricultural business in reliance on an assurance by a local planning authority that it would consent to an alternative use of his land has had his hopes of developing it for residential purposes dashed. The Court of Appeal approved a planning inspector’s ruling that any alleged promise made by the authority was not enough to outweigh the planning harm that would be caused by the development.
David Proudfoot, trading as Proudfoot Properties, had been refused consent by Wealden District Council to build six large homes with garages on his land on the basis that the site lay within an area of outstanding natural beauty, was outside existing settlements and would be an unsustainable location in which residents would have to rely on cars to travel to nearby centres. His appeal against the council’s decision was dismissed by a planning inspector.
The High Court subsequently upheld Mr Proudfoot’s challenge to the inspector’s decision and ordered a reconsideration of the case. Mr Proudfoot claimed that his pig rearing enterprise was brought to an end in December 1999 when the council served an abatement notice alleging nuisance caused by the discharge of slurry from the farm. He claimed that he had agreed to surrender his business on receiving an assurance from the council that he would be permitted to change the use of his land.
Allowing an appeal by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Lord Justice Lewison ruled: “With all respect to the judge, it seems to me to be perfectly clear what the inspector found and why. He decided that the maintenance of the character of the area and the pursuit of highway safety were legitimate aims and that refusal of planning permission was the only way to safeguard those aims.
“If it is the only way of safeguarding those aims, it necessarily follows that the personal circumstances of Proudfoot Properties or Mr Proudfoot could not outweigh those aims, even if the alleged agreement existed. That is precisely the conclusion that the inspector reached. It is quite clear to my mind why he decided the appeal in the way he did. I would hold that the inspector gave adequate reasons for his decision.”