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A freer hand for local authorities

20 June 2013

The Supreme Court has overturned a Court of Appeal ruling, finding that where two overlapping powers both applied to a situation, the local authority was entitled to use either.

The Court held that although their aims and applications overlapped, section 66 of the Highways Act 1980 should not be considered a ‘specific’ provision capable of overruling section 80 as a ‘general’ provision, they are, in fact, different provisions. It was therefore lawful for the council to use its section 80 power, rather than being forced to use section 66 and pay compensation. This should be a relief to local authorities who, in the face of shrinking budgets, must have been concerned about a precedent that could have prevented them from acting with financial prudence.

The court also considered planning immunity, making it clear that, except in a few limited cases set out in statute, a CLEUD (Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development) makes a development lawful, but does not constitute deemed planning permission. Councils and developers would do well to consider other areas where this distinction may be significant.

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