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In Cemex v Richmondshire DC  EWHC 3526 (Admin), the court quashed a grant of planning permission for a barn conversion in the vicinity of a limestone quarry and asphalt plant. The local planning authority had failed to have regard to Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) on noise impacts on the new development by relying on the closure of windows to ensure a satisfactory noise environment and failed to require all the mitigation measures recommended in the noise assessment.
The decision is a useful interpretation of national noise policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and PPG. Paragraph 182 of the 2018 version of the NPPF incorporates the ‘agent of change principle,’ which requires that existing businesses and facilities should not have unreasonable restrictions placed on them as a result of development permitted after they were established. Where the operation of an existing business or community facility could have a significant adverse effect on new development (including changes of use) in its vicinity, the principle requires that the applicant (or ‘agent of change’) should be required to provide suitable mitigation before the development has been completed.
The application and significance of the policy is of course a matter of planning judgement and depends upon the facts of the case, but the case reminds decision-makers to ensure that they take into account all relevant policy in deciding whether to grant planning permission. In particular, if considering a planning application for a new development which could be affected by high noise levels of nearby industrial premises, the decision maker should follow the NPPF and PPG advice on noise sensitivity and avoid noise giving rise to significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life as a result of the development. If relying on a noise assessment, the decision-maker should explain any departure from or exclusions of the assessment’s recommendations. The court will look beyond the qualifications of the noise expert whose advice is relied on—what is important is compliance with the relevant policy, regardless of the expert’s credentials.
The decision will be welcome to industries in the vicinity of noise-sensitive properties as confirmation that they should not have to be subject to unreasonable restrictions because of changes in nearby land uses since they were established.
See Planning analysis: Planning permission for development near quarry quashed on noise grounds (Cemex v Richmondshire DC) (LexisPSL subscription required).
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