Updated Oct 1, 2020

Appeal against new primary school planning permission dismissed

An appeal was dismissed in the case of Gathercole v Suffolk CC.

The appeal was against a decision to grant planning permission for a primary school, with the argument that a council had failed to consider aircraft noise nearby.

The appellant argued that the adequacy of the environmental statement was not sufficient in considering the noise where the school was to be built.

Before the planning application was made on 2 March 2018 there had been three years of consultation about the proposals for the new school. The application was also supported by a detailed environmental statement which included the following:

  • Chapter 2, on the need for development and alternatives; and
  • Chapter 7, on noise.

Chapter 2 addressed several alternative sites which were discussed "at stakeholder meetings which included representatives from the Parish Council, District and County Councils along with the head teacher and governors from the existing school".

Chapter 7 included information on possible sound insulation of the building envelope by reference to the walls, the glazing, the doors and the roof. Also in an attachment to the environmental statement a company, Adrian James Acoustics Limited, had outlined detailed sound insulation for the new school and outside areas.

It was said that:

"The planning decision in this case proceeded upon the conclusion that even the adverse impact of excessive outdoor noise at the proposed site, balanced against the needs and benefits identified, justified the grant of planning permission, even though the environmental impact at alternatives sites considered was either no worse or in many, if not most cases, less severe or even absent."

The appeal was dismissed, and Lord Justice Coulson went as far as to state:

"I consider that the challenge to the decision on public law principles, based on an allegedly inadequate environmental statement, must fail. But if the challenge was sustainable, on the basis that there should have been more environmental information about the main alternatives, that was a procedural defect only and did not have any substantive effect on the decision."