On appeal from: [2018] EWCA Civ 844

This appeal considered whether a condition restricting the use of the premises should be implied into a planning permission granted by the appellant; alternatively, whether the planning permission should be interpreted as containing such a condition.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal.

The Court held that the starting point for interpretation is to find ‘the natural and ordinary meaning’ of the words used, viewed in their context. The Court considered that the  wording of the operative part of the grant was clear and unambiguous, with the Council approving an application for ‘the variation of condition as set out below’. This was followed by precise and accurate descriptions of the relevant development, of the condition to be varied, and of the permission under which it was imposed. The Court determined that the obvious and only natural interpretation of the document was that the Council was approving what was applied for: the variation of one condition from the original wording to the proposed wording, in effect substituting one for the other.

The Court held that it has been normal and accepted usage to describe the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, s 73 as conferring power to ‘vary’ or ‘amend’ a condition, so the reasonable reader would not see any difficulty in giving effect to the varied 2014 permission. The absence of a reason for the condition does not affect its validity. Therefore the Court concluded that the certificate should be amended to exclude uses within the scope of the “Proposed wording” in the decision notice.

For judgment, please download: [2019] UKSC 33
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (21 May 2019 morning session) (21 May 2019 afternoon session)