Bid to establish that councils cannot delay permitted development decisions goes to High Court

A developer has secured permission for a judicial review which will examine whether local authorities can delay decisions on prior approval for projects proposed under permitted development rights.

Warren Farm (Wokingham) sought prior approval from Wokingham Borough Council in Berkshire for its proposed conversion of agricultural buildings to residential use.

Decisions on prior approval must typically be made within 56 days. However, Wokingham Borough Council requested more time to consider the application before refusing the application.

Warren Farm (Wokingham) has now secured the High Court’s approval to challenge the council’s decision on the basis that a refusal of prior approval must be issued within 56 days.

In accepting the judicial review application, judge Alice Robinson wrote that the General Permitted Development Order 2015 may have been drafted with the intention of allowing extensions to the time limit for decisions to be agreed.

However, she said, "whether the language of the 2015 order is effective to achieve that intention is another matter and the contrary is arguable".

Ashley Bowes of Cornerstone Barristers is representing Warren Farm (Wokingham).

In a statement, Cornerstone Barristers said: "The court's ultimate decision will deliver important clarity for those seeking to take advantage of the ability to change the use of agricultural buildings.

"The judgment will also be helpful for local authorities, so as to know how and when to allocate resources to ensure decisions are validly taken within the relevant time period."

Sarah Hollamby, director of locality and customer services at Wokingham Council, said: "An extension to the 56 day limit was agreed in writing between ourselves and Warren Farm Wokingham Ltd, as allowed in Art. 7(c) of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015. We await the outcome of the judicial review with interest." 

Permitted development rights for agricultural to residential conversions were extended this month.

A Planning analysis of agricultural to residential conversions recently revealed that three of the five councils with the highest numbers of applications are in the South West of England.