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The Hillside Parks Decision: Evaluating the Future of Drop-in Planning Applications

The Hillside Parks Decision: Evaluating the Future of Drop-in Planning Applications

Image: Tola Akinoso, Assistant Underwriter

In the realm of planning and development, legal judgments have the power to reshape industry practices and introduce new considerations. Such is the case with the ruling by the Supreme Court in Hillside Parks Ltd v. Snowdonia National Parks Authority, which established that subsequent drop-in planning applications have the potential to invalidate previous applications.

 Unsurprisingly, the ruling sent ripples of concern through the development community, raising concerns over the validity of their schemes.

Below, we delve further into the implications of the Hillside Parks decision, examining its ramifications for developers, plot purchasers, and their legal representatives involved in large and phased developments.


A summary of the case 

The case pertains to the impact of drop-in applications, which involve new planning permissions granted to modify a specific aspect of broader development. These drop-in permissions may overlap with and deviate from the original planning permission granted for the same site. In this particular instance, planning permission was initially granted in 1967 for the development of 401 houses. However, only 41 homes were subsequently built, following additional planning permissions. 

The Supreme Court reviewed previous decisions made by the Court of Appeal and High Court to determine the legality of Hillside Parks Ltd’s continued execution of the remaining development in accordance with the original planning application and master plan. This evaluation was prompted when Hillside Parks Ltd were informed by Snowdonia to cease all works to the site until planning matters had been regularised. This was on the basis that the subsequent drop-in permissions had diverged from the master plan when considered in its entirety, rendering it impossible to implement the original planning permission.

How could this impact planning decisions and future development? 

The Supreme Court has determined that the implementation of subsequent drop-in permissions may potentially render further development under the original permission unlawful, subject to limited exceptions. Consequently, concerns have emerged regarding the future utilisation of drop-in planning applications, particularly within the context of extensive developments.

For instance, if a buyer acquires an undeveloped plot possessing planning permission, which forms part of a larger development site, it is conceivable that another developer or seller may implement a drop-in permission for a distinct section of the development. Such an occurrence may invalidate the original permission, leaving the buyer with a sitelacking valid planning permission.

Similarly, in the context of selling an undeveloped site, replete with planning permission,to another developer, the buyer might elect to obtain a drop-in planning permission to alter the positioning of houses and roads on the site. Such an action could potentially render the seller’s further development, conducted under the original planning permission on their retained land, unlawful.

How Westcor International can help

We acknowledge the concerns that have arisen among developers and plot purchasers in light of the recent Hillside Parks decision, particularly within the realm of extensive and phased developments. The substantial uncertainty surrounding the validity of their schemes constitutes a significant issue.  

While we cannot offer coverage for all circumstances, we are willing to review enquiries related to this matter and provide case-specific quotations. Our evaluation will consider the individual facts presented in each case. It is important to note that our coverage will be limited to the validity of the planning permission itself rather than encompassing other breaches of planning regulations related to the works.

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