Barrister John Hunter of Kings Chambers has appeared for the local planning authority in Harrogate v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and other  EWHC 1506 (Admin), in which the High Court held that public interest factors in planning cases may be sufficient to justify relief from sanctions where such relief would not be granted in private litigation in light of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd  6 Costs LR 1008.
The case concerned an application for statutory review of a planning inspector’s decision to allow an appeal and grant permission for housing subject to a condition that only one of the proposed dwellings should be affordable.
The local authority challenged the decision on the basis that the inspector had erred in law by misunderstanding the effect of an earlier permission on the site. The claim was issued within the six-week statutory time limit for such challenges but, due to a mistake in calculation, was served on the developer who had the benefit of the permission two days late and at a place that he said was his business address rather than his home as required by CPR Part 6.
Although the secretary of state agreed to an order quashing the inspector’s decision, the developer did not and argued against an extension of time being granted. He argued that the defects in service were not trivial, that there was no good reason for them and that he had been substantially prejudiced by them.
However, the judge (HHJ Behrens sitting as judge of the High Court) granted the extension holding that: (i) the defaults were properly to be viewed as ‘trivial’ and thus it was permissible under Mitchell to grant relief even in the absence of good reason; (ii) the developer had not substantiated his claim of prejudice; and (iii) in any event, the public interest inherent in correcting what was at least strongly arguably an unlawful decision outweighed the factors that would otherwise normally take priority following Mitchell.