Ecological Protection – Court of Appeal Ponders Cattle Shed Proposal


Prevention of ecological harm is a critical factor in considering planning applications for developments, both large and small. The point was made by a case in which a farmer’s modest proposal to build a cattle shed and extend an existing agricultural building came under close scrutiny by the Court of Appeal.

The proposed development site was close to a river that was both a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). An objector to the proposal argued that an expansion of livestock farming on the site would lead to increased manure production and muck spreading on surrounding fields. That, he asserted, would become a source of harmful run-off into the river.

However, the local authority granted planning permission in reliance on a planning officer’s report, which described the proposal as a modest expansion of a small-scale rural enterprise. An ecology officer had previously reported that, given the proportions of the development, no likely effects on any relevant SSSI had been identified. The objector’s judicial review challenge to the permission was later rejected.

Dismissing his appeal against that outcome, the Court noted that his real complaint was that the ecology officer’s advice was wrong. To succeed in that argument, he needed to do more than show that others, including other experts, might take a different view. He had not established that there was a demonstrable error in the officer’s reasoning process or that his conclusion was irrational.

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