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You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> European Court of Human Rights >> BRYAN v. THE UNITED KINGDOM - 19178/91 [1995] ECHR 50 (22 November 1995)
URL: http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/1995/50.html
Cite as: [1995] ECHR 50, 21 EHRR 342, [1996] 1 PLR 47, [1996] 2 EGLR 123, (1996) 21 EHRR 342, [1996] 28 EG 137

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In the case of Bryan v. the United Kingdom (1),

The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with

Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of Human

Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") and the relevant

provisions of Rules of Court A (2), as a Chamber composed of the

following judges:

Mr R. Ryssdal, President,

Mr R. Bernhardt,

Mr F. Matscher,

Mr I. Foighel,

Sir John Freeland,

Mr M.A. Lopes Rocha,

Mr J. Makarczyk,

Mr D. Gotchev,

Mr U. Lohmus,

and also of Mr H. Petzold, Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 26 May and 25 October 1995,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the

last-mentioned date:

_______________

Notes by the Registrar

1. The case is numbered 44/1994/491/573. The first number is the

case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the

relevant year (second number). The last two numbers indicate the

case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its

creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications

to the Commission.

2. Rules A apply to all cases referred to the Court before the entry

into force of Protocol No. 9 (P9) and thereafter only to cases

concerning States not bound by that Protocol (P9). They correspond to

the Rules that came into force on 1 January 1983, as amended several

times subsequently.

_______________

PROCEDURE

1. The case was referred to the Court on 9 September 1994 by the

European Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission"), within the

three-month period laid down by Article 32 para. 1 and Article 47 of

the Convention (art. 32-1, art. 47). It originated in an application

(no. 19178/91) against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern

Ireland lodged with the Commission under Article 25 (art. 25) by a

British citizen, Mr John Bryan, on 29 October 1991.

The Commission's request referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44,

art. 48) and to the declaration whereby the United Kingdom recognised

the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46). The

object of the request was to obtain a decision as to whether the facts

of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its

obligations under Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention.

2. In response to the enquiry made in accordance with Rule 33

para. 3 (d) of Rules of Court A, the applicant stated that he wished

to take part in the proceedings and designated the lawyer who would

represent him (Rule 30).

3. The Chamber to be constituted included ex officio

Sir John Freeland, the elected judge of British nationality

(Article 43 of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the

President of the Court (Rule 21 para. 3 (b)). On 24 September 1994,

in the presence of the Registrar, the President drew by lot the names

of the other seven members, namely Mr R. Bernhardt, Mr F. Matscher,

Mr I. Foighel, Mr M.A. Lopes Rocha, Mr J. Makarczyk, Mr D. Gotchev and

Mr U. Lohmus (Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21

para. 4) (art. 43).

4. As President of the Chamber (Rule 21 para. 5), Mr Ryssdal,

through the Registrar, consulted the Agent of the United Kingdom

Government ("the Government"), the applicant's lawyer and the Delegate

of the Commission on the organisation of the proceedings (Rules 37

para. 1 and 38). Pursuant to the order made in consequence, the

Registrar received the applicant's memorial on 28 February 1995 and the

Government's memorial on 7 March 1995. The Secretary to the Commission

later informed him that the Delegate would submit her observations at

the hearing.

5. On 2 May 1995 the Commission produced to the Court the documents

in the proceedings before it, as requested by the Registrar on the

President's instructions.

6. In accordance with the President's decision, the hearing took

place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on

23 May 1995. The Court had held a preparatory meeting beforehand.

There appeared before the Court:

(a) for the Government

Mr I. Christie, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Agent,

Mr D. Pannick, QC,

Mr D. Anderson, Barrister-at-Law, Counsel,

Mr D. Russell,

Ms E. Dixon,

Ms L.M. Aspinall, Department of the Environment, Advisers;

(b) for the Commission

Mrs J. Liddy, Delegate;

(c) for the applicant

Mr E. Owen, Barrister-at-Law, Counsel,

Mr R.M. Napier, Solicitor,

Mr E. Schofield, Adviser.

The Court heard addresses by Mrs Liddy, Mr Owen and Mr Pannick

as well as replies to its questions.

AS TO THE FACTS

I. Circumstances of the case

7. The applicant, Mr John Bryan, is a farmer and a contractor. He

was born in 1931 and resides in Warrington, Cheshire.

8. On 4 December 1989 an enforcement notice was issued and served

on Mr Bryan by the Vale Royal Borough Council requiring the demolition

of two brick buildings on land which the applicant had bought in 1987.

The enforcement notice recited that there appeared to the Council to

be a breach of planning control in that the two brick buildings had

been erected without the necessary planning permission. The notice

required the applicant to demolish the buildings and remove the

building materials within three months. In doing so, the authorities

acted in accordance with section 172 of the Town and Country Planning

Act 1990, which consolidated earlier legislation ("TCPA" - see

paragraph 18 below).

9. The applicant appealed to the Secretary of State for the

Environment under section 174 (2) (a), (b), (g) and (h) TCPA (see

paragraph 19 below).

10. In accordance with the relevant legislation (see paragraph 20

below), an inspector was appointed to conduct an inquiry and determine

the appeal. He was a Principal Housing and Planning Inspector, a civil

servant and a member of the salaried staff of the Department of the

Environment. He had been appointed by the Secretary of State after

approval of the Lord Chancellor. In his decision letter of

1 October 1990 the inspector rejected the appeal under grounds (a),

(b), and (g) but allowed it under ground (h) to the extent that the

compliance period should be extended from three to six months. He

held, inter alia, as follows:

"The appeal on ground (b)

...

(12) What I need to decide in respect of this ground of appeal

is whether, as a matter of fact and degree, the buildings could,

from their appearance and layout, be considered to have been

designed for the purposes of agriculture. I conclude, from

examination of photographs taken during construction and from

noting the alterations made since, that the Council were right

to be concerned that the appeal buildings had the appearance of

large detached houses. The size, layout, and original external

appearance of the buildings and their detailing did little to

change that view.

(13) In my opinion, as originally constructed, the buildings

would have led any reasonable person to have concluded that he

or she was looking at the start of a small new detached housing

estate. Indeed, that appeared to be the widely held view of many

local people, supported by the local Member of Parliament, who

were concerned to see what was being built on the edge of the

village. The more recent construction of an, as yet, uncompleted

but similar building close to the two appeal buildings serves to

compound the effect.

(14) But it is the original appearance of the two appeal

buildings and particularly the first assessment of the Ministry

of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which convinces me that the

buildings were not requisite or reasonably necessary for the

purposes of agriculture. Numerous features of the buildings were

more suited to houses than barns. The original openings in

building No. 1 were said to be doorways for a veal calf unit.

But this building did not incorporate internal drainage

considered necessary for such stock. The doorways appeared to

have been more likely to have been useful as window openings,

none reached ground level as built; one was almost waist high

above outside ground level measured from the lower edge of the

unbonded brickwork added later. Other features in both buildings

include the extensive use of Georgian-style windows and other

windows made for domestic use. I understand that Mr Bryan's

contacts allowed him to buy these windows cheaply. But whatever

their source, they contribute to an impression that the buildings

look more like houses than barns. There are other features which

add to that view. The use of domestic-style eaves and gable

barge boarding. The residential look of the 'porch' to No. 1

building. And the [Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and

Food's] view about the uneconomic layout of both buildings as

originally built all add to the impression that these buildings

were not designed for agricultural purposes, albeit they have

since been modified and adapted for such a use.

(15) You said that the buildings looked like many local old

barns. But it is my view that, as originally built, the appeal

buildings would have looked much more like houses. They did not

look as if they had been designed for the purposes of

agriculture. My opinion is not altered by my finding them now

being used for storing hay. The appeal on ground (b) fails.

The appeal on ground (a)

(16) The appeal buildings lie in part of the green belt ...

They also lie within the Higher Whitley Conservation Area but

outside the village policy area for Higher Whitley shown on the

draft Vale Royal Borough Local Plan. In my opinion, the decision

turns on the following main issues. Whether, if the development

is inappropriate to the green belt, there are any special

circumstances to justify the granting of planning permission;

secondly, whether the appeal buildings enhance or preserve the

character or appearance of the conservation area. I shall also

consider the effect of the development on the countryside

surrounding the village.

(17) ...

(18) The appeal buildings have neither enhanced nor preserved

the appearance of this part of the conservation area, rather the

reverse. Much of the pleasant nature of the area is derived from

the grouping of the older housing around the centre and from its

rural and agricultural setting. The two appeal buildings look

like part of a small estate of detached houses with access roads

and suitable garden areas. The third building, not subject of

this appeal, exacerbates this impression.

(19) These objections amount to sound and clear-cut reasons why

planning permission should be withheld. The fact that other

buildings or buildings of a broadly similar nature, if considered

to be designed for agricultural purposes, could be built under

the provisions of the Town and Country Planning General

Development Order 1988, does not affect my decision. The appeal

on ground (a) fails.

The appeal on ground (g)

(20) You said that demolition of the buildings and the removal

of the materials was an excessive requirement. I do not agree.

Harm to the purpose of the green belt has been caused. The

appearance and character of the conservation area has not been

either enhanced or preserved. Encroachment on the countryside

has occurred. Making the buildings look more like those which

might have been permitted development as you suggested could

mitigate a little of the harm I have identified. But this is not

just a matter of cosmetics. The main objections would remain.

In my opinion, the proper and necessary course of action is that

required by the notice. That includes removal of materials.

Such a requirement would not preclude their re-use on site for

any possible future permitted development. The appeal on ground

(g) fails.

The appeal on ground (h)

(21) ... Mr Bryan wanted more time in order to erect a

replacement or replacements before demolition. I see no need to

insist on a period which would make undue difficulty for him.

I will increase the period to 6 months ...

(22) I have taken account of all the other matters raised,

including the possibility of your client putting up a large

steel-clad building under permitted development rights, but find

they do not affect my decision."

11. The applicant appealed against this decision under section 289

TCPA (see paragraph 24 below). In his Notice of Motion, the applicant

first alleged that the inspector had "erred in law in applying the

wrong test in deciding whether the buildings were permitted development

under the provisions of the ... General Development Order" and "in

considering that the said buildings were not requisite or reasonably

necessary for the purposes of agriculture when there was no evidence

upon which any reasonable inspector could so find". The subsequent

grounds of appeal dealt expressly with grounds (a) and (g) of the

appeal to the Secretary of State (see paragraph 9 above).

12. The appeal was dismissed by the High Court on 8 March 1991, the

judge, Mr Lionel Read, QC, finding inter alia as follows:

"A principal argument on behalf of the applicant at the inquiry

under [ground] (b) was that the erection of the two buildings was

permitted development under the General Development Order ...

...

The applicant does not challenge the inspector's decision under

ground (b). Nevertheless paragraphs 14 and 15 of the decision

letter, where he is still dealing with that ground, are relevant

to the court's consideration of his decision on grounds (a) and

(g) ...

...

In my judgment ... it cannot be said that the inspector failed

to take into account the fact that the applicant might, within

his General Development Order rights, erect buildings of a

broadly similar nature. He addressed that very consideration in

terms at paragraph 19 of his decision letter. Because the

applicant had those rights and wanted more time to erect a

replacement or replacements, the inspector extended the

applicant's time for complying with the enforcement notice under

ground (h).

Whether the existence of these General Development Order rights

provided sufficient reason for the inspector to grant planning

permission for the buildings in fact erected, whether or not

conditioned as suggested by the applicant, was a matter for

judgment - the inspector's judgment. Whether another

decision-maker would have reached the same conclusion as did this

inspector is not to the point. Nor is the view of this court,

which does not sit on appeal from the judgment of inspectors,

relevant. I am unable to say that there was anything irrational

in the inspector's decision. In particular, the question whether

the alterations proposed to a building were, as he evidently

thought, a 'matter of cosmetics' and would not meet the main

objections was entirely a matter of planning judgment for him.

It is to be remembered that, in order to stay within his General

Development Order rights, the applicant must erect replacement

buildings which, by their appearance and layout, could be

considered as designed for the purposes of agriculture. If they

are, their effect on the green belt, the countryside and the

conservation area is irrelevant to the exercise of that right.

That does not, however, in my judgment mean that the inspector

acted irrationally in concluding that the buildings in fact

erected without permission under the General Development Order

were objectionable and should be demolished.

In the result, I find no error of law and I dismiss the

application."

13. At the hearing held before the European Commission of Human

Rights on 14 October 1993, the applicant's representatives stated that,

although they had not represented the applicant before the High Court,

they surmised that the challenge to the inspector's ground (b)

reasoning had been raised in the Notice of Motion and then abandoned

at the hearing because of the limited jurisdiction of the High Court.

In confirmation of this, the applicant furnished the Court with a

statement by the barrister who had represented him in the High Court.

14. Leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal was refused. The Court

of Appeal, on 11 June 1991, also refused leave to appeal.

II. Relevant domestic law and practice

15. Under section 57 TCPA, planning permission is required for the

carrying out of any development on land. Section 58 TCPA allows for

planning permission to be granted by a development order.

16. The Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1988 SI

no. 1813 ("TCPGDO") sets out classes of development for which

permission is automatically granted.

According to Article 3 TCPGDO, and Class A of Part 6 of

Schedule 2 to the TCPGDO, planning permission is deemed granted for the

following developments:

"A. The carrying out on agricultural land comprised of an

agricultural unit of -

(a) works for the erection, extension or alteration of a

building, or

(b) any excavation or engineering operations, reasonably

necessary for the purposes of agriculture within that unit."

17. Accordingly, buildings, structures or works not designed for the

purposes of agriculture require planning permission (paragraph A.1 (c)

of Class A of Part 6 of Schedule 2 to the TCPGDO).

18. Where it appears to the local planning authority that there has

been a breach of planning control and the authority consider that it

is expedient to do so, they may issue an enforcement notice requiring

the breach to be remedied (section 172 TCPA).

19. Section 174 (2) TCPA provides that an appeal against an

enforcement notice may be made to the Secretary of State on any of the

following grounds:

"(a) that planning permission ought to be granted for the

development to which the notice relates or, as the case may be,

that a condition or limitation alleged in the enforcement notice

not to have been complied with ought to be discharged;

(b) that the matters alleged in the notice do not constitute a

breach of planning control;

...

(g) that the steps required by the notice to be taken exceed what

is necessary to remedy any breach of planning control or to

achieve a purpose specified in section 173 (4);

(h) that the period specified in the notice as the period within

which any step is to be taken falls short of what should

reasonably be allowed."

20. Section 175 (3) TCPA provides that if an appellant or the local

authority desires, the Secretary of State shall give each of them the

opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed

by the Secretary of State for the purpose. Where such a person has

determined an appeal, his decision shall be treated as that of the

Secretary of State. Pursuant to the applicable regulations, appeals

against enforcement notices are heard and determined by an inspector.

21. According to the Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency Framework

Document (1992), "staff of the Inspectorate act on behalf of the

[Secretary] of State for the Environment ... This work includes that

of inspectors who, exercising their own independent judgment, decide

cases or make recommendations to the ... Secretary of State ..."

(paragraph 2.2). The process of decision-making on appeals has a

"quasi-judicial character" (paragraph 2.4). The Inspectorate, which

"upholds the principles of openness, fairness and impartiality"

(paragraph 2.6), is "subject to the scrutiny of the Courts, the

Parliamentary Commission for Administration and the Council on

Tribunals ..." (paragraph 2.6). Among the objectives of the

Inspectorate is that of maintaining "the integrity of each inspector

as an independent tribunal, not subject to any improper influence"

(paragraph 2.7 (ii)).

Annex B to the Framework Document adds:

"Each inspector must exercise independent judgment and must not

be subject to any improper influence, nor must it appear that the

inspector may be subject to any such influence."

The basic principles set out in this document had long been

applied in practice.

22. In determining planning appeals, inspectors are required to have

regard, inter alia, to the policies promulgated by the Secretary of

State on matters of planning as a "material consideration" (section 70

TCPA) and to comply with the various procedural rules for the conduct

of enforcement appeals (the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement

Notices and Appeals) Regulations 1981, and the Town and Country

Planning (Enforcement) (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1981). Like any

other person exercising statutory powers, the inspector must also act

in a procedurally fair manner.

23. Decisions by inspectors are not seen by the Department of the

Environment in draft before they are promulgated. However, up until

the time when the decision letter is issued, the Secretary of State may

revoke the power of an inspector to decide an appeal (Schedule 6 to the

TCPA).

24. Section 289 TCPA provides for appeals against a decision of the

Secretary of State under section 174. An appeal may be made to the

High Court on a point of law, or the Secretary of State may be required

to state a case for the opinion of the High Court (section 289 (1)

TCPA).

25. It is common ground that an appeal "on a point of law" may be

brought on grounds identical to an application for judicial review.

It therefore includes a review as to whether a decision or inference

based on a finding of fact is perverse or irrational (R. v. Secretary

of State for the Home Department, ex parte Brind [1991] Appeal

Cases 696, pp. 764 H-765 D). The High Court will also grant a remedy

if the inspector's decision was such that there was no evidence to

support a particular finding of fact; or the decision was made by

reference to irrelevant factors or without regard to relevant factors;

or made for an improper purpose, in a procedurally unfair manner or in

a manner which breached any governing legislation or statutory

instrument. However, the court of review cannot substitute its own

decision on the merits of the case for that of the decision-making

authority (see paragraph 12 above).

26. As an appeal to the High Court under section 289 (1) is on a

point of law, the High Court has no power to receive further evidence

on primary facts (Green v. Minister of Housing and Local Government

[1963] 1 All England Law Reports 578, p. 616). Halsbury's Statutes of

England and Wales, 4th edition, vol. 46 (1990 reissue) describes many

of the cases on the question of whether a point is one of fact or of

law as "irreconcilable" (p. 836). Halsbury's Laws of England states

that "if there is no evidence for a particular finding or if the

tribunal does not take into account at all a relevant consideration,

there could well be grounds of appeal raising a question of law. The

contention that a tribunal has failed to give adequate weight to

evidence or sufficient consideration to a particular circumstance does

not afford such grounds; and the weight which a tribunal gives to a

particular piece of evidence or a particular consideration is a matter

for that tribunal" (Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th edition, vol. 46

(1992 reissue), p. 698).

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

27. Mr Bryan applied to the Commission on 29 October 1991. He relied

on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) to the Convention, arguing that

the Vale Royal Borough Council's enforcement notice of 4 December 1989

(see paragraph 8 above) constituted a violation of his right to the

peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. He further submitted that the

review undertaken by the High Court was of insufficient scope to comply

with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention.

28. On 14 October 1993 the Commission declared the application

(no. 19178/91) admissible only as regards the complaint raised under

Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1). In its report of 28 June 1994 (made

under Article 31) (art. 31), it concluded, by eleven votes to five,

that there had been no violation of that provision (art. 6-1).

The full text of the Commission's opinion and of the two separate

opinions contained in the report is reproduced as an annex to this

judgment (1).

_______________

1. Note by the Registrar: for practical reasons this annex will appear

only with the printed version of the judgment (volume 335-A of

Series A of the Publications of the Court), but a copy of the

Commission's report is available from the registry.

_______________

FINAL SUBMISSIONS MADE TO THE COURT

29. At the hearing, the applicant invited the Court "to hold that

there has been a violation of Article 6 (art. 6) and to make an award

of just satisfaction".

The Government, for their part, submitted that, "looking at the

procedure as a whole, Mr Bryan was not the victim of any breach of

Article 6 para. 1" (art. 6-1).

AS TO THE LAW

ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 (art. 6-1) OF THE CONVENTION

30. Mr Bryan contended that the proceedings which he had been able

to bring under English law, firstly before a Planning Inspector and

then before the High Court, to challenge a planning enforcement notice

served on him did not comply with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the

Convention, which, in so far as relevant, provides:

"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ...,

everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing ... by an

independent and impartial tribunal ..."

A. Applicability

31. Before the Court the Government did not contest, as they had

before the Commission, that the impugned planning proceedings involved

a determination of the applicant's "civil rights".

On the basis of its established case-law, the Court sees no

reason to decide otherwise (see, as a recent authority, the Zander

v. Sweden judgment of 25 November 1993, Series A no. 279-B, p. 40,

para. 27). Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) is accordingly applicable to

the facts of the present case.

B. Compliance

1. Review by the inspector

32. The applicant first appealed to the Secretary of State against

the Borough Council's enforcement notice requiring him to demolish two

buildings on his property (see paragraphs 8 and 9 above). The

inspector appointed to hear the appeal conducted an inquiry and decided

to dismiss the appeal in its essentials (see paragraph 10 above).

33. In the applicant's submission the inspector, in carrying out his

review, did not fulfil the requirement of independence stated in

Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention: the inspector, a member

of the salaried staff of the Department of the Environment, exercised

delegated authority from the Secretary of State who had the power to

withdraw a case from an inspector at any time (see paragraphs 10, 20

and 23 above). In these circumstances, the appeal to the Secretary of

State remained an appeal to the Executive, and more particularly an

appeal from local to central government.

The applicant further contended that although both High Court

judges and inspectors are obliged to have regard to the Secretary of

State's planning policy as a material consideration when deciding cases

(see paragraph 22 above), only inspectors exercise discretionary

planning judgment. A High Court judge does not do so and his role of

deciding points of law on appeal has been described as one "of

supervision, not of review" (R. v. Secretary of State for the Home

Department, ex parte Brind, cited above at paragraph 25).

34. The Government submitted that the inspector was an independent

and impartial tribunal whose quasi-judicial function and independence

of judgment are generally recognised. The power of the Secretary of

State to withdraw a case from the inspector was in fact only used in

a very small proportion of exceptional cases, involving very

significant housing developments or complex issues of law. The

Secretary of State, when in disagreement with the merits of the

approach adopted by an inspector, could not legally deprive him of

jurisdiction or institute disciplinary action against him since such

a conduct would very likely be unlawful as an improper interference

with the independence of the Inspectorate.

In the Government's submission, the fact that inspectors must

have regard to rules, guidance and directions published by the

Secretary of State as a material consideration when making decisions

in a planning context (see paragraph 22 above) provides no basis for

challenging the independence or impartiality of the inspector. This

is the case in many other areas of the law and even the judges of the

High Court and the Court of Appeal are under a similar duty.

The Government further argued that the applicant had not

suggested, nor could he, that the procedure followed by the inspector

in the present case was unfair in any respect. On the contrary, as is

apparent from the text of the decision, the inspector decided the

matter objectively to the best of his ability on the planning merits

of the case. In these circumstances, the applicant's complaint

amounted to asking the Court to adjudicate in the abstract on the

compatibility of legislation with the Convention, a function which is

not the Court's.

35. The Commission, while subscribing in essence to the applicant's

arguments, added that "the fact that the Secretary of State's policies

can be at issue in appeals means that the inspector cannot have the

independence necessary for Article 6 (art. 6) of the Convention".

36. The Court sees no reason to depart from the Government's view,

which is shared by the Commission and uncontested by the applicant,

that the proceedings before the inspector in the present case ensured

the applicant a "fair hearing" for the purposes of Article 6 para. 1

(art. 6-1). It remains, however, to be ascertained whether, in

relation to Mr Bryan's appeal, the inspector constituted an

"independent and impartial tribunal".

37. In order to establish whether a body can be considered

"independent", regard must be had, inter alia, to the manner of

appointment of its members and to their term of office, to the

existence of guarantees against outside pressures and to the question

whether the body presents an appearance of independence (see, inter

alia, the Langborger v. Sweden judgment of 22 June 1989, Series A

no. 155, p. 16, para. 32).

38. It is true that the inspector was required to decide the

applicant's planning appeal in a quasi-judicial, independent and

impartial, as well as fair, manner (see paragraphs 21 and 22 above).

However, as pointed out by the Commission in its report, the Secretary

of State can at any time, even during the course of proceedings which

are in progress, issue a direction to revoke the power of an inspector

to decide an appeal (see paragraph 23 above). In the context of

planning appeals the very existence of this power available to the

Executive, whose own policies may be in issue, is enough to deprive the

inspector of the requisite appearance of independence, notwithstanding

the limited exercise of the power in practice as described by the

Government and irrespective of whether its exercise was or could have

been in issue in the present case.

For this reason alone, the review by the inspector does not of

itself satisfy the requirements of Article 6 (art. 6) of the

Convention, despite the existence of various safeguards customarily

associated with an "independent and impartial tribunal".

2. Review by the High Court

39. Following the inspector's decision, Mr Bryan appealed to the High

Court. The notice of appeal included a challenge to the inspector's

findings of fact (under ground (b) of section 174 (2) of the 1990 Act -

see paragraphs 10 and 19 above), but this ground was not pursued at the

hearing in the High Court (see paragraphs 11 to 13 above).

40. As was explained in the Court's Albert and Le Compte v. Belgium

judgment (10 February 1983, Series A no. 58, p. 16, para. 29), even

where an adjudicatory body determining disputes over "civil rights and

obligations" does not comply with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) in some

respect, no violation of the Convention can be found if the proceedings

before that body are "subject to subsequent control by a judicial body

that has full jurisdiction and does provide the guarantees of

Article 6 para. 1" (art. 6-1).

The issue in the present case is whether the High Court satisfied

the requirements of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) as far as the scope

of its jurisdiction was concerned.

41. According to the applicant, the High Court had no power to

disturb the findings of fact made by the inspector "unless there was

a defect which was so great as to go to jurisdiction". Otherwise, an

appeal lay to the High Court only on points of law and its scope was

narrower than that of the appeal considered by the Court in the cases

of Zumtobel v. Austria (judgment of 21 September 1993, Series A

no. 268-A, pp. 13-14, paras. 31-32) and Obermeier v. Austria (judgment

of 28 June 1990, Series A no. 179, pp. 22-23, paras. 69-70). This

explained why the ground (b) challenge was not pursued in the High

Court: it was the professional judgment of counsel experienced in

planning law that an invitation to the High Court to substitute its own

findings of fact for those of the inspector would have been doomed to

failure (see paragraphs 11 to 13 above).

42. The Government pointed out that the High Court could quash the

inspector's decision if it was procedurally unfair - for example

because of lack of independence - or if it was unreasonable or

otherwise contained any error of law (see paragraph 25 above). Having

particular regard to the fact that there was no challenge to the

factual findings made by the inspector, the Government concluded that

the High Court had sufficient power to review the conclusions reached

by the inspector in this case. In this respect the present case

resembled that of Zumtobel (cited above), where an administrative body,

competent to take decisions "on grounds of expediency", was subject to

judicial review similarly limited to the legality and procedural

fairness of the decision.

Furthermore, if for some reason it were considered that the

inspector had shown some lack of independence of judgment or had

otherwise not acted fairly or had been subject to improper pressure,

then this would have furnished grounds for appeal to the High Court

(see paragraph 26 above).

43. The Commission observed that the decision by the inspector was

carefully reasoned. Although the appeal to the High Court was limited

to points of law, all the applicant's submissions as argued before that

court were dealt with point by point. In the absence of a ground (b)

challenge and, consequently, of dispute as to the primary facts, the

Commission found that "there [was] nothing to indicate that the limited

review available was inadequate in the particular circumstances of

[the] case".

44. The Court notes that the appeal to the High Court, being on

"points of law", was not capable of embracing all aspects of the

inspector's decision concerning the enforcement notice served on

Mr Bryan. In particular, as is not infrequently the case in relation

to administrative-law appeals in the Council of Europe member States,

there was no rehearing as such of the original complaints submitted to

the inspector; the High Court could not substitute its own decision on

the merits for that of the inspector; and its jurisdiction over the

facts was limited (see paragraphs 25 and 26 above).

However, apart from the classic grounds of unlawfulness under

English law (going to such issues as fairness, procedural propriety,

independence and impartiality), the inspector's decision could have

been quashed by the High Court if it had been made by reference to

irrelevant factors or without regard to relevant factors; or if the

evidence relied on by the inspector was not capable of supporting a

finding of fact; or if the decision was based on an inference from

facts which was perverse or irrational in the sense that no inspector

properly directing himself would have drawn such an inference (ibid.).

45. Furthermore, in assessing the sufficiency of the review available

to Mr Bryan on appeal to the High Court, it is necessary to have regard

to matters such as the subject-matter of the decision appealed against,

the manner in which that decision was arrived at, and the content of

the dispute, including the desired and actual grounds of appeal.

46. In this connection the Court would once more refer to the

uncontested safeguards attending the procedure before the inspector:

the quasi-judicial character of the decision-making process; the duty

incumbent on each inspector to exercise independent judgment; the

requirement that inspectors must not be subject to any improper

influence; the stated mission of the Inspectorate to uphold the

principles of openness, fairness and impartiality (see paragraph 21

above). Further, any alleged shortcoming in relation to these

safeguards could have been subject to review by the High Court.

47. In the present case there was no dispute as to the primary facts.

Nor was any challenge made at the hearing in the High Court to the

factual inferences drawn by the inspector, following the abandonment

by the applicant of his objection to the inspector's reasoning under

ground (b) (see paragraphs 11 to 13 above). The High Court had

jurisdiction to entertain the remaining grounds of the applicant's

appeal, and his submissions were adequately dealt with point by point

(see paragraph 12 above). These submissions, as the Commission noted,

went essentially to questions involving "a panoply of policy matters

such as development plans, and the fact that the property was situated

in a green belt and a conservation area".

Furthermore, even if the applicant had sought to pursue his

appeal under ground (b), the Court notes that, while the High Court

could not have substituted its own findings of fact for those of the

inspector, it would have had the power to satisfy itself that the

inspector's findings of fact or the inferences based on them were

neither perverse nor irrational (see paragraph 25 above).

Such an approach by an appeal tribunal on questions of fact can

reasonably be expected in specialised areas of the law such as the one

at issue, particularly where the facts have already been established

in the course of a quasi-judicial procedure governed by many of the

safeguards required by Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1). It is also

frequently a feature in the systems of judicial control of

administrative decisions found throughout the Council of Europe member

States. Indeed, in the instant case, the subject-matter of the

contested decision by the inspector was a typical example of the

exercise of discretionary judgment in the regulation of citizens'

conduct in the sphere of town and country planning.

The scope of review of the High Court was therefore sufficient

to comply with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).

3. Conclusion

48. Having regard to the foregoing considerations, the Court

concludes that the remedies available to the applicant in relation to

his complaints satisfied the requirements of Article 6 para. 1

(art. 6-1) of the Convention.

There has accordingly been no violation of that provision

(art. 6-1) in the present case.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY

Holds that there has been no violation of Article 6 para. 1

(art. 6-1) of the Convention.

Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public hearing

in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 22 November 1995.

Signed: Rolv RYSSDAL

President

Signed: Herbert PETZOLD

Registrar



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