Wednesday, 11 March 2015
The 56-day rule – another example
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I am grateful to a correspondent for passing on to me details of another appeal decision, issued last month, which dealt with the practical operation of the 56-day rule. This appeal related to a prior approval application under Part 3, Class MB, involving the residential conversion of a detached barn to produce two dwellings. The appellant claimed that he did not receive notification of the council’s decision within the 56-day period. It was agreed by both parties that the 56-day period would have expired on 4 June 2014. The council’s decision was dated 3 June, but the decision was not authorised under the council’s scheme of delegation until 4 June. Thus the decision could not have been sent out until Day 56 at the earliest.
The applicant stated that he had received the decision by post on 9 June, and that the council’s website was also updated with details of the decision on that day. He stated that the decision was not emailed to him. The council did not comment on or contradict any of this evidence. The inspector therefore held that, if the decision was posted on 4 June it would have been received by the appellant after the 56-day period and therefore that the postal notification did not take place within the statutory period.
As in the Tower Hamlets appeal (under Part 24), which I summarised in a previous post, the inspector in this case appears to have assumed that notification of the council’s decision must not only be dispatched (whether by hand, by post or electronically) within the 56-day period, but that it must actually be received by the applicant within that period.
Maybe in light of both of the Tower Hamlets decision and now this decision we can assume that this is the rule (until or unless the High Court tells us otherwise!). On the other hand, I understand that there have been other appeal decisions on the 56-day rule (which I have not seen) that went the other way, so maybe the jury is still out on this issue.
One other point that can be quickly disposed of is the implied suggestion (which has also been raised elsewhere) that publication of the council’s decision on its website could be taken as ‘notifying the applicant’ of the council’s decision. In my view, this could not amount to notification for the purposes of paragraph N(9)(c). Notification requires a written communication addressed to the applicant (or their agent), whether by post or by email, and merely posting information on the council’s website would not suffice for this purpose.
UPDATE: I now have the appeal reference for the decision reported above, kindly supplied by Mike Rutter. It is 2224715. If you go into the Planning Portal website, search for appeals and type in this reference, a few more key clicks will bring up a PDF of the decision letter.
© MARTIN H GOODALL