Planning permission for three marquees has been quashed six years after it was issued in an ‘extraordinary’ court hearing.  Normally planning permission needs to be challenged by judicial review within six weeks of it being issued.

Wedding venue, Thornton Manor (the Manor), sought planning permission for the marquees in 2011.  Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council granted the permission subject to some of the income being used to restore the Manor’s grade II registered gardens and other conditions.

The council intended that the planning permission would lapse after five years, but the permission was issued in error without any conditions attached.

When the Manor continued taking wedding venue bookings for the marquees after five years, rival wedding venue, Thornton Hall Hotel, applied to have the planning permission withdrawn.

In the High Court, the judge allowed the claim after the normal six weeks’ time limit.  He said that the Manor bore considerable responsibility for the late claim “because it knew of the error and chose to remain silent about it”.  He quashed the planning permission.

The Manor appealed, on the grounds that the High Court judge had been wrong to extend the time limit for the claim to be brought.

The appeal was rejected.  The judges ruled that it was right to extend the time limit due to the exceptional circumstances of the case and said that they were not setting a precedent for future cases.  “Here the circumstances are most exceptional. They are wholly extraordinary. This is a case where it can truly be said that the exception proves the rule,” they said in the judgement.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions reservedly welcomed the ruling.  He said that after the High Court hearing, there was concern that allowing a planning decision to be challenged so long after the normal six weeks’ time limit could lead to long completed developments being challenged. “The Court of Appeal emphasised that no precedent was being set, but did not overturn the original decision. The Courts’ emphasis means that a high bar has been set, but nevertheless the case can still be quoted as supporting extensions of the time limit where exceptional circumstances exist. There may well be further cases asserting that their facts are exceptional,” he said.

Articles about the case have been published by Local Government Lawyer, Birketts and Ashfords.

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