Bias and pre-determination in planning cases
Bias and pre-determination in planning cases

The following Local Government guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Bias and pre-determination in planning cases
  • Scope of bias and pre-determination in planning cases
  • ‘Actual’ and ‘apparent’ bias
  • Pre-determination
  • Summary of relevant case law
  • Localism Act 2011
  • Bias as a ground of appeal
  • Functions and responsibilities of planning inspectors

Scope of bias and pre-determination in planning cases

Bias and pre-determination can be an issue in planning cases where a local planning authority (LPA) is determining a planning application. Bias arises where a planning officer and/or councillor (the decision-maker) forms or shows bias against or in favour of a person, company or group, or a particular site or locality. Pre-determination is where the decision-maker approaches a decision with a ‘closed mind’. LPAs, like all public bodies, are under a duty to act fairly. Clearly, where a decision-maker is biased or has pre-determined a decision, they will not be acting fairly. The decision will have been taken in bad faith and should be quashed. See Practice Note: Determining planning applications—procedure.

‘Actual’ and ‘apparent’ bias

Bias can take two forms:

  1. ‘actual’ bias: this is where the decision-maker has a personal interest in the outcome of a case. The decision must be quashed unless the interest was so small that it could have played no part in swaying the decision-maker's mind

  2. ‘apparent’ bias: this is where a decision-maker does not have a personal interest in a case but their conduct and behavior give rise to a suspicion that the decision-maker is not impartial

The modern law on bias comes from the judgment of Lord Hope in Porter v Magill, where he indicated