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Judge refuses relief despite upholding ground in neighbourhood plan challenge

A judge has refused relief in a judicial review of a neighbourhood plan because even though one ground succeeded he was unconvinced the decision made would have differed.

The case concerned the neighbourhood plan for Faringdon, a village in Oxfordshire, which was overwhelmingly approved in a local referendum and so adopted by the parish council, Value of White Horse District Council and Oxfordshire County Councils.

Resident Anna Hoare objected to Vale of White Horse District Council cabinet member Roger Cox having under delegated powers accepted modifications to the draft plan recommended by a planning inspector prior to the referendum.

Ms Hoare argued that by allocating the Wicklesham Quarry site for employment uses the plan was unlawful, and sought an order quashing this.

In Hoare v The Vale of White Horse District & Ors [2017] EWHC 1711 John Howell QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, said while two policies that formed part of the applications conflicted, he was not convinced he should grant relief.

He dismissed other grounds argued but said local plan policy GS2 – about the location of development in Vale of White Horse - and policy 4.5B on employment development were in conflict.

But he ruled: “In this case, while I am not satisfied that the examiner and the district council would necessarily have concluded that the [neighbourhood plan] was in general conformity with the strategic policies of the development plan had they realised that Policy 4.5B conflicted with Policy GS2…it appears to me to be highly likely [they] would have done so.

“In those circumstances it appears to me to be highly likely that the outcome for the claimant would not have been substantially different if the legal error I have identified had not occurred. In those circumstances I must refuse relief on this claim for judicial review.

Mark Smulian

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