Judge rejects High Court challenge over manor house lake decision

Bawdsey Manor was purchased by adventure holiday company PGL in 2017 Picture: ARCHANT

Bawdsey Manor was purchased by adventure holiday company PGL in 2017 Picture: ARCHANT

A judge has rejected a legal challenge over the granting of permission for an activity lake at a Suffolk manor house.

East Suffolk Council permitted adventure camp company PGL to create a 14,700 square metre lake at Bawdsey Manor last November.

Local resident Barry Zins challenged the lawfulness of the process, claiming a planning officer’s report and update “materially misled” committee members as to an environmental health officer’s advice on the potential impact of noise.

On his behalf, David Forsdick QC told the High Court the report portrayed the issue of noise as one of further information being required and gave the impression that the environmental health officer had advised the noise issue could be managed out.

He argued the report addressed PGL’s attempts to mitigate noise, but not the environmental health officer’s advice on the “innate inability reasonably to control it, given the nature of the activities”.

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The second ground for challenge was based on a claim that the heritage benefits said to be secured by development were not enshrined by conditions imposed on the granting of permission.

Josef Cannon, instructed by the council, submitted that on a fair reading of all material, no one could have been misled.

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He said the report and update sheet gave a legally adequate summary, and that committee meeting minutes showed members were aware of the contentious issue of noise, but had come to a balanced view of the overall merits of proposals after detailed discussion and a site visit.

Judge James Strachan QC said there was obvious force in the claimant’s points that the report and update sheet had not reported all detail of the advice, but that there was no legal requirement to set out, verbatim, everything said in consultation responses or correspondence.

He said the officer’s view that, on balance, with conditions she identified, the proposal would not be contrary to policy in terms of noise, was a planning judgment she was lawfully entitled to reach.

The fact that the environmental health officer did not consider such measures overcame concerns did not mean it was unlawful for the planning officer to come to a different view, he concluded.

The judge also disagreed that any supporting statements suggested works to the coast or cliffs beneath the manor would be secured by permission being granted, or that the lake was being justified on the basis that work would occur.

Following the decision, Mr Zins said: “It was obvious the judge listened and was thorough.

“The planning officer decided she could come up with a condition that would resolve the issue of noise or lead to a resolution of future problems.

“She told the planning committee that, on balance, the important thing was to support PGL because so much good work could be done.

“The judge called that a planning judgement. If that’s a planning judgement, we say it should be vacated.

“I’m not prepared to appeal on that basis because it was the judge’s opinion, not an error in law.”

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