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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions >> Oakley v South Cambridgeshire District Council & Anor  EWHC 570 (Admin) (16 March 2016)
Cite as:  EWHC 570 (Admin)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| KAREN LOUISE OAKLEY
|- and –
|SOUTH CAMBRIDGESHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL
Jack Parker (instructed by the Defendant, in house) for the Defendant
Hearing date: 8th March 2016
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Jay:
Essential Factual Background
"A delegation report or committee report, setting out the basis of this decision, is available on the Council website."
The Applicant's Case
"My Lords, the so-called rules of natural justice are not engraved on tablets of stone. To use the phrase which better expresses the underlying concept, what the requirements of fairness demand when any body, domestic, administrative or judicial, has to make a decision which will affect the rights of individuals depends on the character of the decision-making body, the kind of decision it has to make and the statutory or other framework in which it operates."
"The giving of reasons may in any one case be requisite. The giving of reasons may among other things concentrate the decision-maker's mind on the right questions; demonstrate to the recipient that this is so; show that the issues have been conscientiously addressed and how the result has been reached; or alternatively alert the recipient to a justiciable flaw in the process. On the other side of the argument, it may place an undue burden on decision-makers; demand an appearance of unanimity where there is diversity; call for the articulation of sometimes inexpressible value judgments; and offer an invitation to the captious to comb the reasons for previously unsuspected grounds of challenge." [supplied emphasis highlights the relevant matters]
(i) Council members may be expected to have substantial local and background knowledge.
(ii) The purpose of an officer's report is to draw members' attention to the proper approach required by law and material considerations. Such reports may contain recommendations, but the ultimate decision-makers are democratically elected councillors, accountable to the local community which elected them.
(iii) It is the task of members, not officers or the courts, to weigh the competing public and private interests involved in the exercise of their planning judgment. These are policy judgments made by expert tribunals within their areas of special competence.
(i) There are cases where the nature of the process itself, or the subject matter, calls in fairness for reasons to be given. Ex parte Doody was such a case.
(ii) There are cases where "something peculiar to the decision", some form of apparent aberration, triggers a reasons duty. Ex parte Cunningham was such a case, because the Court could evaluate for itself the discrepancy between the compensation awarded to Mr Cunningham by the board, and the compensation he would have received in an Industrial Tribunal.
(iii) Category (ii) above does not include decisions which are challengeable by reference only to the reasons for them. If there are no reasons, ex hypothesi there can be no challenge; but the absence of reasons cannot logically be the basis for requiring them. Pure academic judgments fall within this class of decisions.
(iv) The classes of case where reasons are or may be required are not closed.
"Like Keene J., I am prepared to accept the possibility that there could be a situation in which an obligation to give reasons for a grant of permission arises but I am far from satisfied that the present decision can be impugned for lack of reasons. Though the answer may not have been easy, the question posed for the consideration of members of the sub-committee was clear. There was a single issue. Their planning advisors were consistent in making a judgment in favour of the grant of planning permission. Upon the first application for permission, a majority of members rejected the advice of their planning advisers. Before they considered the second application, the members had the benefit of a site visit and further advice from their planning advisers. Better informed as they were, members were entitled to make a different judgment upon the issue, as one of them undoubtedly did and others probably did."