Case Study 3 - Imposition of planning condition restricting B1 office to be connected to farming business and restrictions on hours of use

Costs Summary

Circular 03/09 Costs Awards in Appeals and Other Planning Proceedings advises that, irrespective of the outcome of the appeal, costs may only be awarded against a party who has behaved unreasonably and thereby caused the party applying for costs to incur unnecessary or wasted expense in the appeal process.

The condition sought to restrict the office use to one associated with the on-site agricultural and equine business. However, the reason given for the condition was vague, simply indicating that it is to ensure that the use of the premises is acceptable to the local planning authority.

It was implicit in the report to the Planning Committee that the purpose of the condition is to protect the amenity of nearby dwellings. There is also reference to the site’s location within the Green Belt. However, it could not be determine by the Inspector from that report, or from the information subsequently submitted in connection with the appeal, exactly what harm the Council felt would arise from the use without the restriction imposed by the condition. The fact that the appellant referred to an intention to use the office in connection with his business was not sufficient justification for the condition.

A further condition sought to control the hours of operation of the office. The reason for the condition refers to protecting the amenities of the occupiers of nearby properties. Yet the Council has failed, in responding to this appeal, to explain how more extensive hours of operation would harm the amenities of anyone living nearby.

Circular 03/09 advises at paragraph B29 that imposing a condition that does not comply with the advice in Circular 11/95 may lead to an award of costs against the local planning authority.The Inspector did not consider that the conditions were necessary, and they consequently did not meet the tests within Circular 11/95. While it does not automatically follow from this alone that the Council acted unreasonably, Circular 03/09 places clear emphasis on the importance of planning authorities justifying their decisions in all respects at appeal. Yet the Inspector had no substantive evidence to explain clearly the specific difficulties the conditions were designed to address. It was therefore found that the Council had acted unreasonably in imposing the conditions.