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District fends off judicial review attack on neighbourhood plan decision

A district council has successfully defended a judicial review challenge by a developer to its decision to make a neighbourhood plan.

In Gladman Developments Ltd, R (on the application of) v Aylesbury Vale District Council & Anor [2014] EWHC 4323 (Admin) the claimant challenged the making of the plan for Winslow, a market town in Buckinghamshire with 4,500 residents.

Policy 2 of the Winslow neighbourhood plan established a settlement boundary and provided that development outside the settlement boundary would only be permitted in exceptional circumstances. Policy 3 allocated land for sites within the settlement boundary for an indicative number of 455 new dwellings.

Gladman Developments wanted to develop three sites in the Winslow neighbourhood area. Its sites were outside the settlement boundary identified in Policy 2 and were not allocated as sites for housing under Policy 3.

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The claimant challenged the lawfulness of the plan and sought to challenge the reasoning of an examiner who examined it prior to its adoption and recommended that it be submitted to a referendum and, by extension, the lawfulness of the decision of Aylesbury Vale to make the neighbourhood plan following a vote in its favour at a referendum held in July 2014.

Gladman’s principal complaint was that it was not permissible for the plan to include policies relating to a settlement boundary or the allocation of sites for housing at a time when the local planning authority had not yet adopted a development plan document containing strategic policies for meeting the objectively assessed housing needs of the district.

The claimant also argued that the examiner failed to:

  • have regard to relevant planning guidance when considering the site assessment carried out as part of the process of preparing the neighbourhood plan;
  • assess whether the Winslow plan satisfied the requirement relating to the preparation of a strategic environmental assessment report; and
  • give adequate, intelligible reasons for his conclusions.

Mr Justice Lewis rejected the claim in the High Court, concluding that the Winslow plan was lawful.

The judge said: “A neighbourhood development plan may include policies relating to the use and development of land for housing in its neighbourhood even in the absence of any development plan document setting out strategic housing policies.

“The examiner was therefore entitled to conclude that the draft Neighbourhood Plan satisfied the requirement in paragraph 8(2)(e) of Schedule 4B to the 1990 [Act] as it was in general conformity with such strategic policies as were contained in the development plan documents.

“The examiner was also entitled to conclude that the Neighbourhood Plan, which provided for 455 new dwellings in a sustainable way, did make a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development and satisfied the condition in paragraph 8(2)(d) of Schedule 4B to the 1990 Act.”

Mr Justice Lewis found that the examiner did have regard to national planning policy, including the National Planning Policy Framework and the Planning Practice Guidance, and the further guidance referred to in that guidance, and was entitled to conclude that it was appropriate to recommend that the neighbourhood plan should be submitted to a referendum.

“He was entitled to conclude that the strategic environmental assessment report satisfied the requirements of EU law so that the condition in paragraph 8(2)(f) of Schedule 4B to the 1990 Act was satisfied,” the judge said, adding that the examiner “gave adequate, intelligible reasons for his recommendations”.

Hereward Philpot of Francis Taylor Building appeared for Aylesbury Vale.

Earlier this month another developer, Larkfleet Homes, also lost a High Court challenge to a council’s decision to allow a neighbourhood plan for Uppingham in Rutland to proceed to a referendum.


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