Planning & Environment

An exclusive golf course, a sensitive landscape and a controversial planning application. Sound familiar?… No, it’s not Trump again, but the aptly named “Longshot” Cherkley Court Limited and a development proposal within an AONB in Surrey.

Development plan policies often require an applicant to demonstrate a need for a proposed development in circumstances where the development would not otherwise be permitted. In this recent judicial review case the courts had to consider the proper interpretation of “need” in this context, and how the policy test might be met by an applicant.

Longshot and the Council argued that it was sufficient to demonstrate “viability” (in that the golf course would be economically sustainable and not require subsidy through other development) and that “need” could be equated with “demand” which was evidenced by the availability of funding and a waiting list of high-end members.

The court rejected both arguments which were described as contrary to common sense and a recipe for a “planning free-for-all”. “Need” had to be seen in the context of a planning system created “in the interests of the community as a whole”, and was taken to mean “necessary” in the public interest sense. In reaching this view the court paid close attention to the wider policy context (protecting the special rural landscape), and considered that in this case “need” incorporated both a  geographical component (related to the particular area of Surrey) and a qualitative component (the need must be sufficiently strong to overcome the wider policy context). The members’ finding of “need” in this case was therefore perverse, and the permission was quashed.

Given that there were (apparently) 49 courses within 10 miles of the site, and no less than 7 environmental or cultural designations affecting the site, the applicant here always faced a challenge. But this decision may have wider implications for developers and campaigners alike. Is it consistent with an objective of economic growth? Should it be? Hmmm, perhaps that takes us back to Trump again.

 

Karen Hamilton

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