Case Nos: CO/2812/2014 and CO/2914/2014
21 January 2015
Link to judgment
Summary of case
Challenge brought by two Romany Gypsies who had sought planning permission to site their caravans on Green Belt land.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) policy on dealing with appeals in relation to planning permission was that:
The majority of planning appeals in England are decided by inspectors, but a small percentage is decided by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, usually because the development is large and/or controversial. Around 27,000 appeals are made each year: in 2007, 110 appeals were determined by the Secretary of State.
In July 2013 the Minister issued a statement to say that in the case of applications for planning permission for traveller sites in the Green Belt they would be decided by the the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and not by the inspectors. This meant that there were substantial delays for all such applications.
This practice disadvantaged (and continues to disadvantage) ethnic Gypsies and Travellers applying for planning permission for a home in the Green Belt because it takes substantially longer to determine such an appeal. The result is that an ethnic Gypsy or Traveller applicant with a meritorious appeal is inherently more likely to face a far longer wait for planning permission than a non-Gypsy or Traveller applicant with a meritorious appeal.
The Claimants argued that this amounted to unlawful indirect discrimination in breach of the Equality Act 2010 s19 and was in breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The Claimants also argued that this was in breach of European Convention on Human Rights Articles 6 and 8.
The High Court considered that no regard had been given to the PSED when this new policy was introduced and ruled that:
the challenges based on breaches of the Equality Act 2010 and of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights have succeeded. …These are not to be dismissed as technical breaches. Although the issue of unlawful discrimination was put before the Minister by his officials, no attempt was made by the Minister to follow the steps required of him by statute, nor was the regard required of him by s 149 of the Equality Act 2010 had to the matters set out there.
The Article 6 challenge has succeeded because substantial delays have occurred in dealing with the appeals of Mrs Moore and Ms Coates, and with many other cases. In the context of delay, Article 6 of the ECHR does no more than encapsulate the long standing principle of the common law that justice should not be unreasonably delayed, as it was and has been here. The Claimants were and are entitled to have their appeals determined within a reasonable time.