Fri, 01 Jun 2018
The controversial expansion of a care home in Bath has been halted by the High Court.
Leanne Buckley-Thomson of No5 Barristers’ Chambers and commercial law firm Thrings acted on behalf of a Bath resident, supported by local objectors, to quash plans for the controversial expansion of the 52-bed Cedar Care Home on Oldfield Road.
Consent for substantial expansion to the four-storey Georgian building, which sits within a conservation area and World Heritage Site, was originally granted by Bath and North East Somerset Council in September 2017.
Cedar Care Homes had sought planning approval for a replacement two-storey block and additional two-storey extensions to the south and east sides of the Grade II listed building.
The planning officer had recommended that the application be refused on the grounds that the development contravened local planning policies. In their view it would cause serious harm to the character and setting of the listed building, impact the character and appearance of the conservation area and wider World Heritage site and amounted to ‘overdevelopment’.
The planning committee was told that the recommendation followed a previous refusal of a similar application by the care home group in 2015. The officers advised that the differences between the previously refused scheme and the current one was marginal and did not improve the overall scale and design of the building or materials used.
But despite those recommendations, and objections from 19 members of the public and the Bath Preservation Trust, the committee approved the application by six votes to four without a site visit having taken place.
The arguments presented by the planning committee in favour of the development included that care homes, in order to remain viable, need to become larger operations and therefore the extension was necessary to ensure this viability and safeguard jobs.
At the High Court however, His Honour Judge Cotter QC said there was no evidence to support those arguments and said that he found the decision of the committee to be irrational. He concluded that “the seeking of greater profit does not mean that an existing enterprise is not and will not remain profitable’ particularly when ‘it has been successfully operating for 15 years’.
Leanne Buckley-Thomson of No5 Barristers’ Chambers, a specialist in planning law, said: “The crux of this case is that the planning committee minutes disclose a number of considerations which councillors plainly relied upon, but for which there was no sufficient evidence submitted.
“In his judgment, His Honour Judge Cotter QC said it was impossible to identify why the committee had granted the application and as a result quashed the decision.
Ros Trotman, Associate Planning Solicitor at Thrings said “The High Court judgment is a good result for Bath residents as it will ensure that this important planning application is re-determined on the basis of relevant planning considerations. For this application, the planning officer presented a comprehensive report to the committee and whilst it is always open to councillors to draw a different conclusion, this ruling serves as a helpful reminder that sufficient evidence is required when matters, like the viability of a business, are considered in planning decisions.
The committee decision will now be quashed and the matter sent back to the committee for redetermination.
Leanne Buckley-Thomson is a member of the Planning & Environment Group at No5.