Sainsbury’s wished to expand one of their stores. The local planning authority approved the necessary application but the secretary of state called it in. His inspector, following a full inquiry, supported the proposal. However, after considering the inspector’s report and obtaining supplementary information, the secretary of state decided that planning permission should be refused.
The single ground on which the secretary of state concluded that planning permission should not be granted was that he was not satisfied that a quantitative need for the enlargement had been established, i.e. that the development would not injure existing retail provision in the town or on the edge of town and that there was a surplus of spending potential in the store’s catchment area.
On appeal Mr Justice Collins quashed the refusal decision. The secretary of state appealed.
The issue was whether planning permission should have been refused. Sainsbury’s argued that failure of the decision to regard evidence of overtrading at the store as a possible indicator of a quantitative need for the enlargement, coupled with the lack of proper reasoning should result in the decision being quashed.
The court held that it was not its task to rescue executive government by reading into decisions something more coherent or less legally vulnerable than, on a fair reading, was present. Equally it was not for the courts to strike down a decision which, while it could and probably should have been better expressed, was intelligible and free of certain kinds of error and deficiency.
The letter in question did not appear to be deficient nor did it err in law by excluding overtrading as an indicator of quantitative need. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed
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*Full case details
First Secretary of State vs Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, Court of Appeal, QBD, 6 May 2005