R (on the application of Milton Keynes Council) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2011) QBD (Admin) (Harrison J) 11/4/2011
A number of local authorities were distinctly unhappy about the relaxation of the system of HMO planning by the amendment of the General Permitted Development Order to allow change of use from the C3 to the new C4 HMO planning class without seeking permission. They were even less happy that the ability of planning authorities to give notice to withdraw the permission granted by the amended GPDO was subject to the common requirement for them to give not less than 12 months notice or face the prospect of paying compensation to those affected by the withdrawal of the permission. Therefore Milton Keynes Council (apparently supported by others) sought judicial review of the changes and specifically review of the compensation requirement.
The substance of MKs complaint was that the Labour government had held a consultation on the best way to deal with the situation. The most popular option was to introduce a new HMO planning class while the least popular was one which allowed landlords to simply change use from a single dwelling to an HMO. On a change of government the Coalition was desirous of removing this restriction on the basis that it would deter landlords from. Entering the Market but a cording to MK were conscious that resiling from the C4 use class would be unpopular. Therefore MK contended that the government intentionally held a limited informal consultation with a number of stakeholders (but not MK) and ignored the comments of three of them that a full consultation should be held. This was contended to be an inadequate level of consultation for such a substantial change especially when it left planning authorities with a limited ability to control HMOs and one which left the open to potential compensation claims.
The Court disagreed. Accepting the argument of the Secretary of State that he had a very wide margin of discretion in these matters. A recent consultation had already been held and the second consultation actually asked much the same series of questions. There had been adequate opportunity for MK and others to have their views heard and considered and MK were one of a large number of parties who might choose to complain that the second consultation had not included them. In short, the consultation was not so unfair, given the wide margin of discretion afforded the SoS, as to render it unfair.
Application for review refused.