Care Needed When Exercising Delegated Authority

Officers of Aylesbury Vale District Council have discovered to their cost the consequences of not following the authority delegated to them by the Planning Committee when issuing planning permission.

The Committee resolved to grant planning permission for residential development “delegated to officers… subject to such conditions as are considered appropriate and to include a condition requiring that a reserved matters application be made within 18 months of the date of permission and that any permission arising from that application be implemented within 18 months”. Members had wished to impose these short timeframes because they were concerned about the length of time that the site had remained undeveloped notwithstanding the existence of planning permission granted in 2007 and then renewed in 2011 and so they wished to encourage the building out of the site more swiftly than if longer timeframes were allowed.

Officers, however, were of the view that there was insufficient justification for shortening the period for applying for reserved matters and for requiring implementation within 18 months and granted consent without that condition. 

The decision was challenged by Newton Longville Parish Council. The High Court granted permission to apply for judicial review on the ground that the decision went beyond the terms of the delegated authority because it conflicted with the confined terms of the members’ resolution. Other grounds of challenge related to the officers’ failure to provide adequate reasons, as required by under regulation 7 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 and the related section 106 agreement

The District Council has consented to judgment on all grounds and the decision has been quashed by consent.

This case highlights the importance of going back to the terms of any resolution delegating authority to officers before they issue a decision to ensure that their proposed action complies with its terms.