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Mid Devon District Council Wins Legal Battle

October 2009

Mid Devon District Council has successfully challenged a Planning Inspector’s decision in the High Court, using Low Emission Strategies (LES) in conjunction with their own Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

Mid Devon District Council initially refused to grant planning permission for a commercial development in Crediton on grounds unconnected to air quality issues. This decision was later overturned on appeal by a Planning Inspector who also told the developer they did not have to conform with the Mid Devon SPD which contains a requirement to contribute towards Air Quality Action Plan measures. This is despite the SPD being a formally adopted document at the time the appeal was heard.

The Action Plan sets out LES measures to ensure that the operation of a site, including any additional road traffic arising, are not detrimental to health or the wider environment through pollution.

Mid Devon District Council challenged the Planning Inspector’s decision to overturn their initial refusal and waive the SPD requirements via a legal challenge to the Secretary of State in the High Court. The judge ruled that the Planning Inspector had acted unreasonably and had failed to carry out his legal duties correctly.

The judge also ruled that the Planning Inspector had failed to understand the SPD policy and costs were awarded to the council.

Simon Newcombe, Environmental Protection Officer at Mid Devon District Council, comments: “By using LES guidelines, we created our own Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). This is used by developers to assess air quality emissions generated on a development site and requires them to contribute to additional mitigation measures in our Action Plan.

“We were concerned as the Planning Inspector failed to take account of the SPD it potentially undermined our whole policy approach and we felt we had to take the unusual step of challenging the Planning Inspector’s decision. Our SPD is an adopted strategic document and all future major developments in the area will now incorporate low emission strategies, sustainable energy and carbon footprinting.

“We are very happy that a complex legal challenge has ultimately resulted in a very high legal vindication of our approach.”

The LES Partnership is working with 15 local authorities across England, including Mid Devon District Council, to support the delivery of Low Emission Strategies. These strategies provide measures to help lower the emissions caused by traffic during regeneration and the development of new sites. The primary aim of LES is to accelerate the uptake of low emission fuels and technologies in and around a development site.

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