Principle of consistency

January 18th, 2023 by James Goudie KC

In R (Blacker) v Chelmsford City Council (2023) EWCA Civ 25 the Court of Appeal holds that a local authority’s Planning Committee had not breached the “ principle of consistency” in decision-making by refusing to grant planning permission for a development despite having previously indicated that it was “minded” to grant permission. The initial indication was just that. It was not a substantive decision. Having given it, the Committee’s decision was to defer the application for consideration at a subsequent Meeting. All options were left open.

The Committee had acted in accordance with the authority’s statutory Constitution. The Constitution required deferment because approval involved rejecting the Planning Officer’s Recommendation.

The importance of consistency in decision-making means that when there has been a previous decision to grant or refuse planning permission in respect of the same site that is capable of being a material consideration on a later application; and if the decision-maker is minded to depart from the previous decision it has to engage with the reasons for that decision and explain its departure from them.

However, the principle of consistency was not engaged. That was because there had been no earlier substantive decision.

The deferral requirement in the Constitution aimed to give the decision-making Committee the opportunity to stand back and think twice about the implications of rejecting an Officer Recommendation. That was the process that the Committee had duly followed.

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