Supreme Court rejects developer appeal in planning row over Snowdonia site
In a landmark case the UK’s highest court has ruled that a developer cannot rely on a scheme granted planning permission in the late 1960s for a development in Snowdonia National Park.
Permission was granted in 1967 for 401 homes at the Balkan Hill site, which comprises about 29 acres of land near Aberdyfi.
However, since that date, only 41 houses have been built and none of those have been constructed in accordance with the original plans.
There have also been various other permissions granted in relation to the site and further development has taken place without planning permission since then.
Hillside Parks Ltd appealed to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal decided in Snowdonia National Park’s favour in 2020.
The details of the case go all the way back to 1967 when then Merioneth County Council granted planning permission for the development of 401 houses on a site in Snowdonia National Park near Aberdyfi.
In 2019, Hillside Parks Ltd, which now owns the site, brought a claim against the National Park Authority in order to ascertain whether the scheme of development authorised in 1967 could still lawfully be completed.
The National Park Authority had successfully argued in the High Court and Court of Appeal that it could not, as permissions granted after 1967 were inconsistent with the original plan. In particular, roads had been built in areas designated for houses, and houses had been built in areas designated for roads.
Dismissing the appeal today, 2 November, following a hearing in London in July, a panel of five justices upheld the earlier decisions.
Lords Sales and Leggatt, giving the ruling with which the other three judges agreed, said that development that has taken place since the grant of the original scheme has made it “physically impossible” for further development to now take place in accordance with those plans.
‘Right to dismiss’
The judges said: “The courts below were right to hold that the 1967 permission was a permission to carry out a single scheme of development on the Balkan Hill site and cannot be construed as separately permitting particular parts of the scheme to be built alongside development on the site authorised by independent permissions.
“It is possible in principle for a local planning authority to grant a planning permission which approves a modification of such an entire scheme rather than constituting a separate permission referable just to part of the scheme.
“The developer has failed to show, however, that the additional planning permissions under which development has been carried out on the Balkan Hill site since 1987 should be construed in this way.
“Therefore, that development is inconsistent with the 1967 permission and has had the effect that it is physically impossible to develop the Balkan Hill site in accordance with the master plan approved by the 1967 permission, as subsequently modified down to 1987.
“Furthermore, other development has been carried out for which the developer has failed to show that any planning permission was obtained.
“This development also makes it physically impossible to develop the site in accordance with the master plan approved by the 1967 permission, as subsequently modified.
“The courts below were therefore right to dismiss the developer’s claim and this appeal must also be dismissed.”
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