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Does Surrey Need Another Golf Course?

Friday, 4 October 2013

Developers Longshot Cherkley Court Limited gained early success in their pursuit of planning permission for a golf course on the Beaverbrook estate. The Andy Murray-backed venture was granted planning consent to create a hotel, health club, cookery school and a private 18-hole golf course by Mole District Valley Council.

Despite this early victory, protest group, Cherkley Campaign Limited, successfully brought judicial review proceedings against the plans, arguing that Surrey had no ‘need’ for another exclusive golf course.

The ‘Need’ for a Another Surrey Golf Course

The case turned on Mr Justice Haddon-Cave interpretation of what ‘need’ meant in these circumstances.

Before considering that issue he drew attention to the fundamentals of planning law. He suggested, echoing the thoughts of Sir Malcolm Grant, that planning law is concerned with the regulation of the private use of the land in the interests of the community as a whole

He then turned his attention to the question of ‘need’. He held that ‘need’ means ‘required in the public interest of the public and the community as a whole, i.e necessary in the public interest sense’. He further commented that ‘need’ does not mean desire or demand by private interests. It was alluded to that the fact that Longshot could sell membership to many millionaires in the UK and abroad to play golf in this exclusive golf club but that did not equate to a ‘need’ in a proper public interest sense.

In the course of his strongly worded judgement; it was mentioned that the council failed to understand the tension between the concepts of exclusive demand and public need.

Protected Landscape

In fact, Haddon-Cave J was highly critical of the council. He suggested that the council merely paid lip-service to the green belt policy in the area and that it failed to consider whether there were ‘exceptional circumstances’ or’ public interest’ reasons justifying the property development to take place in the protected landscape of Surrey.

Haddon-Cave J, unsurprisingly in light of his criticisms, quashed the decision by the council to grant the planning permission to develop the golf course and hotel. He did so on the basis that the decision was legally flawed, irrational, contrary to planning permission and ignored material considerations. He also held that the reasons given for the decision were not adequate.

Public Interest and Private use of Land

An interesting aspect of planning law raised by this case was the inherent tension between the public interest and private use of the land. Longshot argued that private demand for exclusive golf facilities equated to need in a planning sense.

However, Haddon Cave J found the argument fallacious as purely private demand was antithetical to public need. He found that the more exclusive the private purpose, the less the public need is demonstrated.

Comment

The proceedings are likely to be appealed given the large sums of money at stake. It is arguable that Haddon-Cave J should have focused more on due process than the actual decision of the council as that is the purpose of judicial review – the review of an administrative decision of a public body.

It could be said that his interpretation of ‘need’ in the circumstances was largely irrelevant as judicial review proceeding are meant to analysis the decision making process not the decision itself. For more information about this case or proceedings related to planning law, contact Peter Gourri today by email PGourri@rollingsons.co.uk or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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