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Developer wins High Court battle over refusal of permission for 100-home site

Developer Wainhomes (North-West) has won a High Court case against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government over housebuilding in the area of South Ribble Borough Council.

Wainhomes in December 2018 applied for outline planning permission for up to 100 homes at Chain House Lane, Whitestake. South Ribble refused this and Wainhomes appealed.

But following a public inquiry the planning inspector also rejected Wainhomes' case.

In Wainhomes (North-West) Ltd v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government [2020] EWHC 2294 Mr Justice Dove noted at the outset of the case that although the appeal before him had a number of grounds, the Secretary of State had already conceded that the inspector's decision should be quashed on one ground [Ground 5] - that use of the standard method for the distributional consequences which would arise across the Central Lancashire housing market area would render a policy in South Ribble’s local plan out of date.

Wainhomes also argued that the inspector fell into error in concluding there had not been a review of the rate of housing delivery and that her reasoning was unclear over the council’s core strategy.

It also contended that the inspector was guilty of a clear misinterpretation of planning policy guidance when she concluded that it covered a situation where an existing plan figure was found significantly above the housing requirement generated using the standard method to identify local housing need.

The borough council supported the decision which was made by the inspector, and contended that on all grounds the claim should be dismissed.

Dove J said: “Drawing the threads together it is clear to me that this claim must be allowed, and the decision quashed in relation to the claimant's contentions in ground 5 [the point conceded by the Secretary of State.”

The judge also said he was satisfied that in ground 1, the Inspector's reasons for concluding that the MOU and the SHMA process leading up to it did not properly constitute a footnote 37 review were not legally adequate, and that her conclusions were affected by illegality in the form of an error of fact.

Mr Justice Dove said he was satisfied that the conclusion the inspector reached that there had been a significant change pursuant to the PPG arising from the introduction of the standard method, was a planning judgment reasonably open to her based upon a correct interpretation of the PPG ("albeit other conclusions might reasonably be reached by other Inspectors"), and therefore she was entitled to conclude that Core Strategy Policy 4(a) was out of date.

Mark Smulian

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