The High Court has quashed Cornwall Council's planning approval granted to a farmer on Rame Head.

Mrs Justice Tipples has today (May 21) handed down her judgment in the Judicial Review brought by the Rame Protection Group (RPG) into the planning approval for a large modern dwelling on a green-field site on the headland at the heart of the Rame Head Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Chris Wilton’s planning application to build a new four-bedroom family home on land he owns was granted under exception rules, which allow homes to be built for agricultural workers.

Mr Wilton, who is also chair of the local parish council, said that he and his young family had to live in a mobile home as his parents were living in the farmhouse. He hoped that by building the new home it would provide for his family and future generations.

More than £30,000 was donated by supporters to the RPG for the legal battle and hundreds wrote letters of objections to the planning proposal.

The case was heard at the High Court on February 24-25.

South West Farmer: Designs for the proposed houseDesigns for the proposed house

The RPG had put two objections forward:

1. Cornwall Council breached its duty to provide adequate reasons for its decision to set aside the professional judgments of the Principal Planning Officer and the Planning Officer of the AONB, who both strongly recommended refusal of the planning application.

2. Cornwall Council failed to show that the decision to grant planning approval was in line with local planning policy.

The decision to grant planning approval for PA20/03747 was quashed.

Further, the Honourable Mrs Justice Tipples has refused Cornwall Council’s application to appeal this judgment.

If the Council’s legal team wishes to pursue this avenue, they will need to lodge an application with the Court of Appeal.

In relation to the first ground, the judge’s conclusion is that there was no adequate explanation of the decision to grant planning permission. In particular, no reasons were given as to why ‘the Committee thought the social and economic benefits of the proposed development outweighed the landscape harm’.

As regards the second ground, the committee had invoked Policy 7, which permits new buildings for agricultural workers in the open countryside where need can be shown for a property in a specific location.

Policy 7, however, makes no mention of the AONB. This is referred to in Policy 23 of the local plan and deals specifically with the requirements for developments within these designated areas. Policy 23 specifies that any new buildings should be of an appropriate scale, mass and design, that they should meet a local need and be located so as to address the sensitivity and capacity of protected landscapes.

The judge’s view was that even if this had applied, Policy 23 has an additional clause which says that development proposals must also ‘conserve and enhance the landscape character and beauty of the AONB’. She agreed that this could not be true in this case.

She concluded: “The consequence of this is that establishing the “essential need” criteria under paragraph 5 of policy 7, does not itself justify development in the AONB, and the Committee failed to properly interpret policies 7 and 23 of the Local Plan (para 102).”

This judgment has far-reaching implications for the protection of AONBs in Cornwall and beyond.

It means that private ‘need’ alone would not in itself justify developments inside an AONB, and it re-asserts the importance of the protection that the AONB offers when it comes to developments in the open countryside.