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High Court success for Wirral hotelier

Words: Laura Edgar
Wedding marquee / iStock-509786268

Thornton Hall Hotel has won a High Court case against Wirral Council and Thornton Holdings that sees planning permission for a marquee development in the green belt quashed.

Law firm Weightmans represented Thornton Hall Hotel in the case against Thornton Holdings’ nearby Thornton Manor. They both host weddings and functions.

In 2011, the council’s planning committee approved a five-year temporary permission for the marquees in the grounds of Thornton Manor, which would be located in the green belt. The permission should have expired in December 2016.

Weightmans explained, though, that an error was made and an unconditional planning permission was issued to Thornton Manor for the marquees without time constraints.

The marquees remained in place after December 2016, with bookings still being taken. The law firm said attempts were made to get the council to take enforcement action to remove the marquees once the error became publicly known in July 2017.

Therefore, Weightmans moved on behalf of the claimant to bring a judicial review challenge seeking to quash the original 2011 planning permission and the errors within it.

The council conceded the error and agreed to the permission being quashed. However, the owners of Thornton Manor Estate, Thornton Holdings, joined the proceedings in order to defend it.

On 23 March, Mr Justice Kerr allowed the claim and granted a time extension for this to take place, despite the case being brought after the normal time limit for a judicial review due to exceptional circumstances. He said that Thornton Holdings is responsible for the lateness of the claim because it knew of the error and remained silent about it.

“I think justice requires that the extension of time be granted so that the interest of the public in the integrity of the planning process is not excluded from consideration by this court. The public interest lies in the court having power to rectify the error.

“In my judgment, the court should now exercise its power to rectify the error by quashing the permission.”

Lee Gordon, partner and head of planning at Weightmans, said: “The judge’s decision reinforces the integrity of the planning process and highlights the risks of relying on a planning permission issued in error.”

Thornton Hall Hotel Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council can be found here.

Image credit | iStock