Thompson v Oxford City Council – Court of Appeal Dismiss Appeal

In July 2013 we reported on the case of R (Alistair Lockwood Thompson) v Oxford City Council.  

Mr Alistair Thompson appealed the decision of Mr Justice Haddon-Cave in 2013 dismissing his claim for judicial review and the judgement of that appeal was published today.

In brief, Mr Thompson sought an appeal of the High Courts’ decision on the grounds that Mr Justice Haddon-Cave was wrong:

1. to hold that the reasoning in Dunster Properties Ltd v. The First Secretary of State was not applicable to licensing cases.
2. to reject the appellant's claim that the licensing sub-committee refusing him renewal of his licence had failed to give an adequate and intelligible explanation for departing from the reasoned decision of the differently constituted sub-committee that granted him the licence.
3. to hold that in assessing the "character of the relevant locality" for the purposes of deciding whether the renewal of a licence would be appropriate having regard to that character, a licensing authority was entitled to have regard to proposed future development pending, but not yet lodged at the time of the licensing hearing.
4. not to address the appellant's complaint that he had been denied the opportunity at the licensing hearing to respond to the alleged 'future development'.

In the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal on all four grounds.

In relation to the first two grounds for appeal, Lloyd Jones LJ said “Schedule 3 regime gives a wide discretion to licensing authorities, in particular in forming value judgements as to whether the grant or renewal of a licence would be appropriate having regard to the character of the locality … the fact that the maximum term of an SEV licence is twelve months indicates that local authorities are to keep these matters under frequent review.”

Taking into account the above, Lloyd Jones LJ outlined the right procedure to follow:

(1) On an application to renew an SEV licence it is not necessary for an objector to demonstrate that something has changed since the decision granting the licence.

(2) However, the decision maker has to have due regard to the fact that a licence was previously granted.

(3) If there is no relevant change of circumstances, the decision maker has to give his reasons for departing from the earlier decision.

In relation to the third grounds of appeal, Lloyd Jones LJ said “It seems to me that in making that assessment [whether the grant or renewal of a licence would be appropriate having regard to the character of the relevant locality] it should be permitted, at least, to have regard to an imminent development of which it is aware, even if there can be no certainty that it will be completed and operational within the period of the licence.”  However, he did qualify that statement by also saying that “… the ability to take account in this context of forthcoming developments cannot be open-ended.”