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English High Court quashes decision of a Local Authority to build a luxury golf resort

This case has been referred to as a prime example of the importance of judicial review in holding public bodies to account.

The case related to a decision of a Council to provide planning permission for a luxury golf resort in Surrey. Planning was granted despite the recommendation of the local planning authority not to grant permission.

The proposal was to build the golf resort in an area known as Cherkley Estate. The whole area amounts to 375 acres. Significant parts of the area have protected status under a number of different laws (please see here for a breakdown of the legal protection afforded to the area).

The respondents sought to argue that private demand equated to a need for such a resort. This argument was not accepted by the Judge, who noted: 

‘The golden thread of public interest is woven through the lexicon of planning law, including into the word “need”. Pure private “demand” is antithetical to public “need”, particularly very exclusive private demand. Once this is understood, the case answers itself. The more exclusive the development, the less public need is demonstrated.’

The Judge also noted that at the time of the Court hearing, Surrey already had 141 golf courses.

The Court held the Council had misinterpreted the meaning of “need” in planning policies applicable to the proposal. Unusually, the judge went as far as to say the decision was perverse – it simply “does not add up.” He also noted that the Council had misapplied applicable landscape policies and failed to give proper consideration to green belt policies.

Environment Rights & Planning Law