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Borough launches legal action against neighbour over failure to cooperate

Luton Borough Council has launched judicial review proceedings against a neighbouring authority over its decision to grant planning permission for a major urban extension.

Central Bedfordshire Council granted permission for the extension to the north of Houghton Regis. The scheme comprises approximately 5,000 homes and employment uses including retail and retail distribution floorspace.

Luton claimed that its neighbour had not determined the application for planning permission correctly. It argued that:

  • In accordance with national guidance, the alteration of Green Belt boundaries “should have been brought forward through Central Bedfordshire’s plan-making process rather than through the determination of a planning application”;
  • The application had undermined Central Bedfordshire’s Local Plan "by predetermining a number of significant issues";
  • In determining the application, Central Bedfordshire had failed in its duty to cooperate with its neighbouring authority, “especially given Luton’s very significant need for new housing and especially affordable homes which it cannot deliver within its own boundaries”.

Overall, ten separate grounds of challenge have been advanced. They are:

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  1. Failing to take into consideration paragraph 83 of the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”).
  2. Failure to consider, adequately or at all, alternative sites or strategies.
  3. Misdirection in attributing “substantial weight” to the emerging Development Strategy.
  4. Misdirection as to the application site’s planning pedigree.
  5. Misdirection that the adoption of the material parts of the emerging Development Strategy in their current form was inevitable.
  6. Failure to take into account the National Planning Policy Guidance.
  7. Failure to disclose key viability reports, or to allow or facilitate proper public participation on the viability issues.
  8. No justification in Green Belt policy terms for the substantial class A proposals included within the application.
  9. Failure to assess lawfully or at all the sequential test for the retail proposals.
  10. Failure to consider or assess the sequential and impact tests for the other proposed “main town centre uses”.

“Since this matter is now before the court it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage,” Luton said.

Jason Longhurst, Director of Regeneration and Business at Central Bedfordshire, said: “Luton Borough Council have lodged papers with the High Court, challenging Central Bedfordshire Council’s decision to approve the planning application for development to the north of Houghton Regis.

“The first stage requires a formal response to the grounds cited by Luton as forming the basis of their ‘challenge’ and the council’s legal representatives are working on our response at the moment. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further or speculate ahead of any decision.” 

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