West Berkshire District Council Reading Borough Council v Department for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 2222 (Admin)

Case No: CO/76/2015

Date

31 July 2015

Link to judgment

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2015/2222.html&query=%27public+sector+equality+duty%27&method=boolean

Discrimination grounds

All protected grounds

Summary of case

West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council sought to challenge two decisions of the Secretary of State concerning planning policies for England, namely:

  1. The decision on 28 November 2014 to make alterations to national policy in respect of planning obligations for affordable housing and social infrastructure contributions by way of a Written Ministerial Statement in the House of Commons (HCWS50); and
  2. The decision on 10 February 2015 to maintain those policy changes following the completion of an Equalities Impact Assessment.

The policy changes in the Ministerial Statement were accompanied by amendments to the National Planning Practice Guidance.

Outcome

Holgate J concluded that:

it is necessary to keep in mind the principle that it is not for the Court to determine whether appropriate weight has been given to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) or the matters taken into account. However, in this case I have come to the conclusion that the exercise carried out in January 2015, as explained in the Equality Statement dated 5th February 2015 (which is the only evidence before the Court about the assessment) did not comply with the requirements of section 149 of the 2010 Act because:

  1. Ministers did not take adequate steps to obtain relevant information in order to comply with the PSED; and/or
  2.  The duty was not fulfilled in substance and with rigour; and/or
  3. Ministers did not assess the extent and risk of certain adverse impacts upon persons with protected characteristics and falling within section 149(1);
  4.  The exercise was not carried out with a sufficiently open mind…

…the Equality Statement of 5 February 2015 cannot be treated as satisfying the PSED and ground 4 must be upheld. The appropriate remedy is a quashing order rather than the mere grant of declaratory relief.