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Permission for housing on Leeds sports ground ruled unlawful

Leeds City Council’s decision to grant outline planning permission for housing on a community sports field has been ruled unlawful by a High Court judge for a second time today, Wednesday 6 July, 2022.

Posted on 06 July 2022

The judgment quashes the permission and means the council must think yet again after an earlier grant of outline planning permission for housing on TV Harrison Sports Ground, in Oldfield Lane, Wortley was quashed in August 2021.

Additionally, in January 2022 a judge ruled that Leeds City Council’s refusal to list the sports ground as an asset of community value (ACV) was unlawful (also for the second time).

The land has been restored and maintained by the local community and is used for sports including football matches. Part of the land is owned by Leeds City Council and leased to Leeds School Sport Association which owns the remainder of the land.

All four successful legal challenges to the council decisions have been brought by TV Harrison CIC, a community interest company represented by law firm Leigh Day and Jenny Wigley QC of Landmark Chambers.

In the judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Eyre accepted TV Harrison CIC’s ground of claim that Leeds City Council was in breach of Breach of s. 70 (2) Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and s. 38(6) Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 because it had failed to have regard to policy N6 of its own Unitary Development Plan, which specifically protects playing fields such as TV Harrison Sports Grounds.

TV Harrison CIC challenged the council under the established proposition that a decision maker’s decision “will be open to challenge if he fails to have regard to a policy in the development plan which is relevant to the application or fails properly to interpret it”.

When the application was presented at planning committee, the planning officer did not mention policy N6 in his report and the chair used a casting vote to grant permission. TV Harrison CIC argued that there was a material possibility that the fact that the playing field was designated and protected in the development plan would have tipped the balance in favour of refusal.

The Leeds Site Allocations Plan (SAP) allocates the land for housing, but the city council chief executive has admitted that this was a decision based on a miscalculation of the amount of outdoor sports green space available in Wortley.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Eyre said:

“In order to determine the application lawfully the Defendant had to have regard to policy N6. It had to consider that policy and made a judgement as to its interrelation with the SAP and the allocation there of the Site for housing subject to the site requirements. As Miss Wigley QC put it, the Defendant had to grapple with the consequences of the policy N6. That was not done and as a consequence the Decision was flawed as a matter of law.”

Ricardo Gama, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, added:

“TV Harrison CIC believes the fact that this is the fourth decision by Leeds City Council relating to TV Harrison Sports Ground to be quashed suggests that the council is determined to keep pushing the development regardless of the legal protections in place for sports fields such as this. Our client hopes that this latest judgment will cause council officers to rethink their approach and, at the very least, to make sure that all council policies are properly applied.”

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Ricardo Gama November 2021
Environment Planning Judicial review

Ricardo Gama

Ricardo specialises in environmental claims and planning law

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