Planning & Environment

A decision to grant planning permission for an office and warehouse development which would replace a car park next to the River Mersey was quashed where the development would have an adverse impact on the ability of disabled people to access the riverside. The inspector had failed to demonstrate due regard to the public sector equality duty (“PSED” ) under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. There was clear evidence that the car park was both regularly used and valued by disabled people. The PSED was not mentioned in the planning officers’ report on the planning application or the Inspector’s decision. The court therefore held that it was likely that the Inspector had overlooked it, and thus made an error of law. The evidence of disadvantage to disabled persons was held to be significant, and the Inspector failed to recognise its importance. Had the Inspector shown due regard to the PSED he may have reached a different decision on the application. The decision to grant the permission has been set aside, but that does not prevent the same decision on the application again if the PSED is duly taken account of.

Many local authorities include a section on the PSED and human rights in their reports on applications as standard. This is helpful to reduce the risk of a PSED legal challenge – the case officer has to consider it. To defend a challenge on PSED grounds, local authorities, and developers, where necessary, require to gather and analyse information on whether protected groups are adversely affected by a development proposal. Due regard to the duty should be demonstrated by evidence gathering, inclusion of PSED issues in reports on the planning application and should form part of the deliberations of the decision-maker.

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