Case law: Political involvement in planning decisions

10th August 2015

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Freddie Kennedy

Jen Hawkins of Lexis PSL explores whether planning decisions can be impaired because of lobbying by a local MP.

In Broadview Energy v Secretary of state for communities and local government, the Planning Court rejected a claim under s.288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that a decision to refuse planning permission for a wind turbine development was impaired because of lobbying by the local MP.

Broadview sought permission for a wind farm in Northamptonshire. While the application was being considered, the MP, Andrea Leadsom, campaigned against the development. The firm challenged the secretary of state’s decision to refuse planning permission at appeal, alleging that there had been breaches of natural justice and that the decision was vitiated by actual and apparent bias because of representations made by the MP to ministers.

In rejecting the claim, Justice Cranston said one of the functions of the modern MP was to take up constituency issues and that lobbying of ministers was part and parcel of their representative role. He also noted that parliament had created a system in which planning decisions were made by politicians, at both a local and national level. This would inevitably lead to MPs contacting ministers about constituency planning matters being considered by them and it was unavoidable that ministers should receive written representations on behalf of constituents. Cranston concluded that because ministers are primary decision-makers for some planning matters, there is nothing unlawful in their being lobbied by an MP, so long as the minister acts fairly and consistently with the standards of propriety set by the planning inquiries rules, the ministerial code and the planning propriety guidance.

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