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     House of Lords portcullis
House of Lords
Session 1997-98
Publications on the Internet
Judgments

House of Lords - City of Edinburgh Council v. Secretary of State for Scotland and Others

HOUSE OF LORDS

  Lord Browne-Wilkinson   Lord Mackay of Clashfern   Lord Steyn
  Lord Hope of Craighead   Lord Clyde

OPINIONS OF THE LORDS OF APPEAL FOR JUDGMENT IN THE CAUSE


CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL
(RESPONDENTS)

v.

SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCOTLAND
(APPELLANT)
AND OTHERS (RESPONDENTS)
(SCOTLAND)

CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL
(RESPONDENTS)

v.

SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCOTLAND
(RESPONDENT)
AND OTHERS (APPELLANTS)
(SCOTLAND)

ON 16 OCTOBER 1997



LORD BROWNE-WILKINSON


My Lords,

      I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech to be delivered by my noble and learned friend, Lord Clyde. For the reasons he gives I would make the order which he proposes.



LORD MACKAY OF CLASHFERN


My Lords,

      I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech to be delivered by my noble and learned friend, Lord Clyde. For the reasons he has given I would also make the order which he proposes.



LORD STEYN


My Lords,

      I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech to be delivered by my noble and learned friend Lord Clyde. For the reasons he has given I would also make the order which he proposes.



LORD HOPE OF CRAIGHEAD


My Lords,

      I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech which has been prepared by my noble and learned friend, Lord Clyde. I agree with it, and for the reasons which he gives I also would allow the appeal on the planning law issue and dismiss the appeal on the issue about listed building consent.

      I should like however to add a few observations about the meaning and effect of section 18A of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972, and to say rather more about the listed building consent issue which has revealed some practical problems about the way buildings are listed for the purposes of the statute - as to which I am unable, with respect, to agree with the approach taken by the learned judges in the Second Division.

The planning issue

      Section 18A of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act of 1972, which was introduced by section 58 of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, creates a presumption in favour of the development plan. That section has to be read together with section 26(1) of the Act of 1972. Under the previous law, prior to the introduction of section 18A into that Act, the presumption was in favour of development. The development plan, so far as material to the application, was something to which the planning authority had to have regard, along with other material considerations. The weight to be attached to it was a matter for the judgment of the planning authority. That judgment was to be exercised in the light of all the material considerations for and against the application for planning permission. It is not in doubt that the purpose of the amendment introduced by section 18A was to enhance the status, in this exercise of judgment, of the development plan.

      It requires to be emphasised, however, that the matter is nevertheless still one of judgment, and that this judgment is to be exercised by the decision taker. The development plan does not, even with the benefit of section 18A, have absolute authority. The planning authority is not obliged, to adopt Lord Guest's words in Simpson v. Edinburgh Corporation, 1960 S.C. 313, 318, "slavishly to adhere to" it. It is at liberty to depart from the development plan if material considerations indicate otherwise. No doubt the enhanced status of the development plan will ensure that in most cases decisions about the control of development will be taken in accordance with what it has laid down. But some of its provisions may become outdated as national policies change, or circumstances may have occurred which show that they are no longer relevant. In such a case the decision where the balance lies between its provisions on the one hand and other material considerations on the other which favour the development, or which may provide more up to date guidance as to the tests which must be satisfied, will continue, as before, to be a matter for the planning authority.

      The presumption which section 18A lays down is a statutory requirement. It has the force of law behind it. But it is, in essence, a presumption of fact, and it is with regard to the facts that the judgment has to be exercised. The primary responsibility thus lies with the decision taker. The function of the court is, as before, a limited one. All the court can do is review the decision, as the only grounds on which it may be challenged in terms of the statute are those which section 233(1) of the Act lays down. I do not think that it is helpful in this context, therefore, to regard the presumption in favour of the development plan as a governing or paramount one. The only questions for the court are whether the decision taker had regard to the presumption, whether the other considerations which he regarded as material were relevant considerations to which he was entitled to have regard and whether, looked at as a whole, his decision was irrational. It would be a mistake to think that the effect of section 18A was to increase the power of the court to intervene in decisions about planning control. That section, like section 26(1), is addressed primarily to the decision taker. The function of the court is to see that the decision taker had regard to the presumption, not to assess whether he gave enough weight to it where there were other material considerations indicating that the determination should not be made in accordance with the development plan.

      As for the circumstances of the present case, I agree that the Reporter was entitled in the light of the material which was before him to give priority to the more recent planning guidance in preference to the development plan, and that the reasons which he gave for his decision in the light of that guidance to grant planning permission were sufficient to explain the conclusions which he had reached.

The listed buildings issue

      The appellants' argument was that the list of buildings of special or historic interest which the Secretary of State for Scotland has compiled under section 52 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 did not include the former riding school at Redford Barracks and that the reporter was entitled to make a finding to this effect. Their approach was that the question whether the building was a listed building was a question of fact which the reporter was entitled to decide as part of the case which was before him in the appeal against the refusal of listed building consent. Yet it became clear in the course of counsel's argument that the issue which the appellants regard as one of fact depends upon the proper construction of the entries in the list. So it seems to me that the underlying question - if it is truly one of construction - is one of law.

      The structure of the legislation which is contained in sections 52 to 54 of the Act is to this effect. It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State to compile or approve of the list. He may take account, in deciding whether or not to include a building in the list, of the building itself and its setting. Any respect in which its exterior contributes to the architectural or historic interest of any group of buildings of which it forms part may be taken into account. So also may be the desirability of preserving any feature of the building fixed to it or comprised within its curtilage on the ground of its architectural or historic interest. The building itself must be identified in the list, but section 52(7) also provides that, for the purposes of the Act, any object or structure fixed to the building or forming part of the land and comprised within the curtilage of the building shall be treated as part of it. Thus it is not necessary to do more than to identify the building - or, in cases such as the present, the principal buildings - in order to extend the statutory protection to these additional elements. The details of the procedure are set out in the Town and Country Planning (Listed Buildings and Buildings in Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 1975 (S.I. 1975 No. 2069) as amended by the Town and Country Planning (Listed Buildings and Buildings in Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1977 (S.I. 1977 No. 255).

      The control which the Act lays down of works for the demolition of a listed building, or its alteration or extension in a manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest, is the prohibition of any such works which have not been authorised. The question whether works of alteration or extension should be authorised can be dealt with as part of an application for planning permission. Section 54(2) provides that, where planning permission is granted for such works, that permission shall operate as listed building consent in respect of those works. But in this case what the appellants wish to do is to demolish the building, so a separate application for listed building consent under Schedule 10 to the Act of 1972 was required. Paragraph 7(2) of that Schedule provides that a person appealing against a decision to refuse consent by the local planning authority may include in his notice as the ground or one of the grounds of his appeal a claim that the building is not of special architectural or historic interest and ought to be removed from the list. But there is no provision in that Schedule or elsewhere in the Act which enables a person aggrieved to include as one of his grounds of appeal that the building to which his application for consent relates is not included in the list as a listed building. The Act assumes, in regard to the statutory procedures, that the question whether or not a building is a listed building can be determined simply by inspecting the list which the Secretary of State has prepared.

      The list itself is not the subject of any prescribed form. The only prescribed form for which the Act of 1972 provides is that for the form of notice which is to be served on every owner, lessee and occupier of the building under section 52(5) stating that the building has been included in, or excluded from, the list as the case may be. The prescribed form of notice is set out in Schedule 5 to the 1975 Regulations. It is in these terms:

    "NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the building known as ............
    situated in the ...............................................................
    has been included in the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest in that area compiled by the Secretary of State under section 52 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 on
    ......... 19 ......
    Dated ............. 19 ....
    (Signature of Authorised Officer)."

      It can be seen from this form of notice that the only information which is communicated to the owner, lessee and occupier to indicate the identity of the listed building is the name by which the building is known and the place where it is situated. The effect of section 52(7), as I have said, is to require any object or structure fixed to that building or forming part of the land and comprised within the curtilage of the building to be treated as part of the building for the purposes of the provisions in the Act relating to listed buildings. But the form of notice does not require a description of the building to be given. The assumption is that the name of the building will be sufficient to identify what is in the list.

      The list which is available for public inspection under section 52(6) is a more elaborate document, and it is this aspect of the matter which appears to have given rise to some confusion in the present case. It comprises six columns, headed respectively "Map reference," "Name of Building," "Description," "References," "Category" and "Notes." In the column headed "Name of Building" there appears this entry:

    "REDFORD BARRACKS Colinton Road and Colinton Mains Road (original buildings of 1909-15 only)."

The column headed "Description" contains a very detailed description of the premises. It begins by naming the architect, who is said to have been Harry B. Measures, Director of Barrack Construction, 1909-15. There then follows a comprehensive description of the barracks and the various buildings comprised therein, together with references to various features of architectural or historic interest. In the middle of this description, which occupies nearly four pages on the list, there appears this passage:

    "other buildings to S. with large riding school at extreme S.E., all tall single-storey, simple treatment."

The column headed "References" contains this entry:

    "Information courtesy Buildings of Scotland Research Unit."

      My impression is that the list which I have been attempting to describe was intended to serve several functions. First, it was intended to identify the listed building. It did this by stating its name and its location. That was all it needed to do in order to record the information which had been given in the prescribed notice to the owner, lessee and occupier. Then it was intended to provide a description of the building. There is no requirement for this - nor is there space - in the prescribed form of notice. But a description is a useful thing to include in the list, as decisions may have to be taken from time to time as to whether authorisation should be given under section 53(2)(a) of the Act of 1972 to a proposal to demolish, alter or extend the listed building. Both the decision taker and the developer will, no doubt, find it helpful to know what the features were which persuaded the Secretary of State that the building should be listed as being of special architectural or historic interest. Lastly, it was intended to provide a list of references to the sources of information, if any, which had been used in compiling the description. On this analysis I would regard the columns headed "Description" and "References," while informative, as subservient to the column headed "Name of Building." In my opinion it is the latter column which serves the statutory function of identifying the listed building in the list which the Secretary of State is required to keep available for public inspection under section 52(6) of the Act of 1972. In their printed case Revival state that the inclusion of the words of limitation in this column reflects a practice of compiling the list so that the "Name of Building" column is the official entry which defines the scope of the listing. That observation is consistent with my understanding of the list.

      The Lord Justice-Clerk mentioned in his opinion that counsel for the Secretary of State had pointed out in the course of the hearing before the Second Division that it has been the practice for some time now for the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest to be set forth in a different form from that which has been used in this case. A specimen form was produced in the course of that hearing from which it appeared that the list now contained eight columns. The first, which was entitled "Name of Building and/or Address," was headed as being the "Statutory List." The remaining seven columns contained information under various headings not dissimilar to those used in the present case, including "Description," "Reference" and "Notes." They were the subject of a separate heading which read: "The information (cols. 2-8) has no legal significance, nor do errors or omissions nullify or otherwise affect statutory listing." We were not shown a copy of this form, as the Secretary of State did not appeal against the decision of the Second Division on this point. But Revival refer to this passage in the Lord Justice-Clerk's opinion in their printed case, in order to make the point that the modern form of list has merely formalised the practice that it is the "Name of Building" column which defines the scope of the listing. The description which we have been given is sufficient to indicate that the more modern form is an improvement on the previous form, as it removes the possibility of a misunderstanding about the function which the columns headed "Description" and "References" were intended to serve.

      It is plain from the way in which the learned judges of the Second Division approached this issue that they regarded all the columns on the list which was before them in this case as forming part of the statutory listing. For my part - although counsel for Revival was content to adopt this approach in presenting his argument - I think that they were in error in taking this view. It does not seem to me that there is any real difficulty in understanding the functions of each of the columns, if the list is read in the context of the legislation which it was designed to serve. But my conclusion that the only column which sets out the statutory listing is that which is headed "Name of Building" does not solve all the problems which have arisen in this case.

      The listing of Redford Barracks was in itself sufficient, with the benefit of section 52(7) of the Act of 1972, to include within the statutory listing all objects or structures forming part of the land and comprised within the curtilage. Unless some words of limitation were included every building within the curtilage, however modest or unimportant, would be the subject of the statutory controls. It was no doubt for this reason that the words "(original buildings 1909-15 only)" were included in the column headed "Name of Building." But this was not an entirely satisfactory method of distinguishing between those buildings which were intended to be included in the statutory listing and those which were not. The words which were selected were ambiguous. The dates 1909-15 are the same as those mentioned in the next column as being those between which Harry B. Measures was the Director of Barrack Construction. But it is not clear whether they were intended to refer to the period of design of the buildings or the period of their construction, and if the latter whether the buildings had to be completed by 1915 in order to qualify or it was sufficient that they were commenced before or during that year. In this situation I think that it is permissible to examine the contents of the column headed "Description" in order to see whether it can help to resolve the ambiguity. Phrases are used in various parts of the description such as "some lesser buildings" and "other buildings" which suggest that this was not intended to be a definitive description of the entire premises comprised within the curtilage. But the fact that the riding school is mentioned in the description is sufficient, in view of the ambiguity, to put in issue the question whether that building was included in the statutory listing.

 
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