Tue, 02 Jun 2015
Gilbart J’s judgment in the Planning Court (Cardiff) in Lear Investments Ltd v Welsh Ministers, CO/5216/2014, provides a good example of how to deal with an inadequate report by a planning inspector.
L, which wished to develop land for housing, had adduced evidence that an existing employment building was no longer viable and could not be made viable by repair and maintenance or by demolition and rebuilding. The inspector failed to address the maintenance cost and the low rental return. Gilbart J therefore quashed the inspector’s decision.
Tim Jones was counsel for Lear Investments Ltd.
Gilbart J’s judgment, which can be found here, includes the following:
"…this is a case in which the claimant had put forward evidence. It was not confined to the cost of refurbishment or the cost of demolition but it concerned maintenance. While I accept [counsel for the Ministers] submission that the claimant had not paraded a set of rentals which could go along with the cost of maintenance, the fact is that the inspector had the case clearly before him from the claimants, and unchallenged by the local planning authority, that the rental value to be obtained did not justify even the cost of maintaining the buildings in the current state. Given that the cost of maintaining the buildings in their current state was unviable and given that refurbishment was unviable, it follows that anything in between which is limited but more extensive maintenance is a matter of speculation, so far as potential rental value is concerned. But if the inspector had said: you have not demonstrated to me to my satisfaction that the building is unviable if you simply maintain it, that would be one thing. What he said is: there is no evidence that a more modest lower cost option had been considered. He never addresses anything other than the issues of refurbishment on the one hand and demolition to provide the new units on the other."
"The case put before the inspector had indicated that refurbishment would give a maximum extra rental of between 50 pence and £1 per square foot. It follows, in my judgment, from all of that that the inspector has not grappled with the case that was being put before him, which was the building as it was really had reached the end of its useful life. Had the inspector gone on to say: well, I have looked at the building; it could provide a valuable contribution and you have not satisfied me that the maintenance cannot be paid for; that would be another matter. What he has done is to treat this on the basis that he had no evidence before him about anything other than refurbishment or demolition. That was patently not the case. It was in my judgment a substantial issue which he had to grapple with and he has not done so."
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