Housebuilder launches challenge against Winchester refusal

Housebuilder CALA Homes has launched a legal challenge against secretary of state Eric Pickles’ decision to block its plans to build 2,000 homes at Barton Farm on the outskirts of Winchester.

Winchester: "difficult decisions"
Winchester: "difficult decisions"
In September, Pickles dismissed the plans for the development on greenfield land at Barton Farm, comprising the new homes along with a local shopping centre, health and community facilities and business space.

CALA’s fight to build the homes at Barton Farm kick-started its separate long-running legal challenges against the government's plans to abolish regional strategies.

Winchester refused an application for the homes last year following the government's announcement that it was to revoke the strategies and a letter from its chief planner Steve Quartermain that said the revocation should be considered when making planning decisions.

CALA then appealed
the council’s decision and in September’s decision on that appeal, Pickles ruled that there were no overriding site-specific obstacles to the development of the Barton Farm site. He also agreed with the inspector that the South East's regional strategy provided the only robust housing requirement figure for the area at present.

However, he added that granting the development permission at that stage would be premature ahead of publication of Winchester City Council's core strategy, which is intended to identify key sites for development in the area over the next 20 years. In doing so, Pickles essentially left the council to decide upon the matter.

Speaking at the time Winchester City Council leader George Beckett welcomed the decision, but said it left the council with "challenging questions".

"While the secretary of state has commended our approach, he has set Winchester the challenge of making the difficult decisions on necessary growth at a local level", he said.

CALA has now challenged Pickles’ decision on seven grounds including that Pickles attached too much weight to the council’s emerging core strategy when making his decision.

Current guidance states that, in some circumstances, planning permission can be refused on grounds of prematurity where a development plan document is being prepared or is under review, but has not yet been adopted. In legal documents CALA says it "is clear that the emerging core strategy was not even at the relevant consultation stage", and therefore "there was no credible basis for purporting to rely upon prematurity as a ground of objection if the advice were applied".

CALA also says Pickles failed to take into account the decision of a judge in the earlier CALA II case which found that local authorities could not take into account the revocation of regional plans when drawing up local plans.

And the housebuilder claims Pickles "failed to deal properly with the evidence that was before the inquiry, the findings of the Inspector and the (his) own endorsement of those findings, or has reached conclusions which are inconsistent with that evidence and findings or are otherwise irrational".

Ian Ginbey, head of planning at Clyde & Co (which acts for CALA) said: "CALA considers the secretary of state to have erred in refusing to grant planning permission against the recommendation of his appointed inspector given his conclusions on policy and housing land supply."

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