United Kingdom
Environmental Impact Assessments, Precaution, Wildlife, Permits, Contract, Standing, Evidence, Air pollution, Property
Golden Valley Paddocks had assembled 10 poultry units which were 20 metres by 6 metres by 3.5 metres high on farmland in the Woolley Valley, part of an area of outstanding natural beauty north of Bath. Each unit weighed around 2 tonnes and was placed in a 1-2 acre fenced paddock. They were assembled by a ‘skilled team’ from metal hoops, metal skids, uPVC planks, polythene and insulation in ‘a couple of days’. The units had metal skids and a towbar with an intention that each unit could be moved around the paddock every eight weeks by being dragged by a tractor. The plan was to house 1,000 laying hens in each unit, but this was subsequently changed to accommodate 500 laying ducks. The local planning authority decided that these units did not constitute operational development and so did not need planning permission. Mrs Justice Lang quashed the decision holding that the Council had made a series of errors of law: (i) Whilst it had considered whether the units were buildings it had not considered the wider meaning of building as including an erection or structure; (ii) It failed to have regard to the relevant authorities that structures or erections could be buildings despite being moveable; (iii) The authority did not correctly direct itself on the issue of permanence. Citing Schiemann LJ’s observation in Skerritts that in situ was concerned with ‘a sufficient length of time to be of significance in the planning context’, Mrs Justice Lang said: “In this case, the units were permanently in their field, and there was no limit on the length of time they would remain there – they could be there for years. The ability to move them around the field did not remove the significance of their presence in planning terms. The visual and landscape impact of the units was not affected to any material extent by any periodic changes to their position in the field.” (iv) Whether or not the units were buildings, they could be building operations; (v) Additionally, the term ‘other operations’ in the definition of development was sufficiently broad to encompass the construction/ installation of the poultry units if they do not fall within the meaning of “building operations”. The Court also found that the units were capable of constituting intensive livestock installations under Annex II of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. It was a matter for the Council to consider on a correct understanding of the law whether they were in fact intensive livestock installations. The Council had failed to consider the Directive and so had failed to ask whether the proposal was development in that light.