The High Court has quashed planning permission given seven years ago in error which would have allowed the huge expansion of a caravan site.
In Croyde Area Residents Association, R (On the Application Of) v North Devon District Council  EWHC 646, a case she described as “exceptional and indeed unique” Mrs Justice Lieven granted an application by Croyde Area Residents Association to quash a planning consent given by North Devon District Council to Parkdean Holiday Parks.
North Devon gave Parkdean planning permission in 2014 for lodges, static caravans and touring caravans at Ruda Holiday Park in Croyde.
When permission was given an officer's report clearly showed it was intended only to change the site’s opening times.
But among the conditions attached was a site location plan that mistakenly showed as included in the caravan and camping area a further six hectares of Parkdean’s land and 12 hectares in other ownerships.
The land is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and this error went unnoticed by either side for four years.
Lieven J said the issues before her were whether the claim was statute barred by reason of s.284 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and if not should an extension of time be granted and should relief be refused.
She noted that both the council and Parkdean accepted that the 2014 permission was unlawful and the council accepted it should be quashed while Parkdean did not.
The association argued that North Devon had erroneously granted permission for a different purpose and in respect of a different area of land than it intended.
Lieven J said: “In my view it is plain that this ground must succeed. The [council] self-evidently failed to take into consideration the impact of extending the holiday park well outside its existing boundaries because [it] did not realise that was the legal effect of the permission.
“It is hard to conceive of a more obvious failure to take into account material considerations.”
She also agreed that the grant of permission did not comply with the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 and that North Devon made an error of law by granting permission contrary to a number of development plan policies.
Parkdean argued that the unlawful permission cannot now be quashed because a statutory bar which protects it from challenge.
Lievan J though said: “It would be a highly unusual, if not exceptional, situation where the court would quash a planning permission where the effect was to remove the benefit of a lawful development certificate [but] I consider this to be such an exceptional case.
“However, in the vast majority of cases the existence of the LDC will be an overwhelming reason not to quash the planning permission.”
She explained: “This is in my view a unique and exceptional case. That is because the factors on both sides of the balance are extreme. The starting point is that the extension sought is over six years, an exceptionally long time for such a challenge and for any judicial review.
“I note however that the reason the period is so unusually long is that the impugned part of the permission, the extension of the site, has still not been implemented.
“This is highly unusual, indeed normally a permission not implemented for this period of time would have lapsed. The reason it has not in this case is that nobody, including [Parkdean], realised the effect of the permission for the first four years.”
The overriding factor was the harm that would flow from upholding the planning permission as the site is in a highly prominent location in an AONB, the judge noted.