March 13th, 2019 by James Goudie KC

In Stephenson v SoS for MHCLG (2019) EWHC 519 (Admin) Dove J, from paragraph 35 to paragraph 62, applied familiar principles as to the requirements to be satisfied by a lawful consultation exercise, the parameters which need to be observed in order to ensure that the consultation is one which is lawful. He found the

consultation which preceded revision of the NPPF to add a paragraph relating to shale fracking to have been flawed.  By contrast with what the reasonable reader would have discerned from the publicly available material, the Defendant had a “closed mind” as to the content of the policy.  He was not undertaking the consultation “at a formative stage”.  He had no intention of changing his mind about the substance of the revised policy.  Further, he did not “conscientiously consider” the fruits of the consultation exercise, in circumstances where he had no interest in examining observations or evidence pertaining to the merits of the policy. This had the effect of excluding anything which bore upon the merits of the policy: paragraph 58.

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