National Trust Membership Rules Out Judge in Planning Dispute

When a planning appeal to which the National Trust was a party came before the court and the judge due to hear it was a member of the Trust, he was automatically disqualified from hearing the appeal.

The planning application was to build four wind turbines, which were to be sited within a mile of a Grade 1 listed building. After the local authority had refused the application, it went to appeal and the refusal was overturned. The local authority and the National Trust then wished to appeal that decision.

The judge who heard the appeal had forgotten that he was a member of the Trust. Because of his membership, the developer requested that the judge recuse himself, which is legal terminology for removing oneself from a case when there is a conflict of interest.

Although the court considered that the decision as to whether or not removal of the judge was necessary was borderline – the National Trust having more than three million members and a wide remit – it decided that he was disqualified from hearing the appeal by virtue of his membership.

The appeal will therefore have to be reheard before another judge.

It is important that judicial decisions are not only made impartially but seen to be so.

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