Expanding Numbers

November 29th, 2011 by James Goudie KC
St John’s School is an Independent Day School for Boys aged 3-13 in Northwood, Middlesex.  Hillingdon Council is the Local Planning Authority for the area in which the School is located.  In 2001 the Council granted the School planning permission to build an extension.  However, a condition of the planning permission limited the total number of full time staff to 40 and pupils to 350.  This was for traffic related reasons.  The School exceeded these numbers.  For at least five years there have been 65 staff and 405 pupils.  Local residents complained about traffic.  The Council took enforcement action.
In R (St John’s School, Northwood) v Hillingdon LBC Singh J in the Administrative Court held on 28November 2011 in an extempore Judgment that the Council had acted lawfully in ruling that the School must comply with the planning condition for the following academic year rather than permitting a five year compliance period.  The Council had to strike a careful balance between considering the impact upon the School and the public interest.  It had been entitled to strike the balance as it did.  Traffic congestion and safety were relevant considerations.
There were two other points in the case.  The Enforcement Notice did not specify whether the limit on “staff” numbers referred solely to teaching staff or included assistant staff.  The School argued that this made the Notice void for uncertainty.  The Judge disagreed.

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