Mr & Mrs Sheath v Secretary of State for the Environment & Ors (2001)


Informal concessions given by a local planning officer in relation to a planning permission were binding on the authority he represented, but did not invalidate the entire permission.


Appeal from a decision of the secretary of state's inspector on 5 April 2000 to issue a lawful development certificate in a form not acceptable to the appellants. A house had been built in accordance with a planning permission that required its occupation by someone working in agriculture and improved access to the property from the public road prior to commencement of the building works. After the grant of permission but before development, correspondence was entered into whereby the builder ascertained from the Council that the access road could be improved after the building had been constructed. In the event, the access road was never improved. Moreover, the house was sold to the appellants, who was not a person working in the agricultural sector. The appellants argued that as the informal concession contained in correspondence was not a formal variation of the permission, the whole building had been built in breach of permission, and as they had occupied it as their home for more than four years a certificate of lawful development should be issued allowing them to continue to occupy it notwithstanding their lack of connection to agriculture. HELD: The informal concession given by the local authority employee within the confines of his ostensible authority created a binding estoppel on the local planning authority on whose behalf it was given. However, the concessions were not such as to invalidate the whole permission, they merely gave an indication of how the permission was to be interpreted and in what order development could take place. Accordingly, the original permission was still lawful and a certificate was properly issued if it required compliance with all other conditions set out in the original permission, including the requirement that the occupants be connected to the agricultural sector.


Appeal dismissed.