Developers threaten judicial review over neighbourhood plan, says council

A council has complained of 'corporate bullying' after three housebuilders threatened a judicial review over a neighbourhood plan that recently passed examination.

Tattenhall: inspector backed neighbourhood plan in August
Tattenhall: inspector backed neighbourhood plan in August

The Tattenhall Neighbourhood Plan in Cheshire was passed by an examiner at the end of August with a referendum on the document scheduled for Thursday 24 October.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has announced that Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes and Wainhomes have told the authority they want it to suspend the referendum and rescind its decision to approve the plan.

The neighbourhood plan, the fourth in the country to pass examimation, states that "large scale, inappropriate development along existing village boundaries will not be supported by the community" and recommends that future developments are limited to no more than 30 homes.

According to the council, all three housebuilders have submitted planning applications to build 30-unit-plus developments in the village.

It says Taylor Wimpey has applied to build 110 homes at Chester Road; Wainhomes Developments, 137 homes on land at Greenlands; and Barratt Homes, 68 homes on land opposite Brookhall Cottages.

The authority said lawyers acting on behalf of the housebuilders have sent the authority a ‘letter before claim’ under judicial review pre-action protocols questioning the impartiality of the independent examiner Nigel McGurk.

They claim that at the time of the examination, McGurk was a non-executive director of Himor (Land) Ltd, which is part of the Himor Group, a strategic land company promoting a 26-acre urban extension at Hoole Gate, Chester.

Hoole Gate, the housebuilders are alleged to argue, is an extension being promoted through Cheshire West and Chester Council’s emerging local plan alongside competing sites promoted by the claimants.

Council leader, Mike Jones, described the claims as "highly regrettable corporate bullying of a local community".

He said the council would continue to back the plan – and the counting officer intended to hold the referendum as planned.

Jones said: "It would be absolutely tragic if such dedication and commitment was threatened simply because the plan’s recommendations differed from developers’ requirements."

Herbert Manley, the executive member for growth and innovation said the authority had every confidence in its choice of independent examiner and rejected any claims of bias.

He said the Hoole Gate extension was a "totally unrelated proposal", adding that the developers did not complain about McGurk’s appointment before or during the examination.

A statement issued on behalf of Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes and Wainhomes said: "We can confirm that we have been party to correspondence concerning the Tattenhall Neighbourhood Plan and are currently considering a response received from the council’s lawyers before deciding upon the next steps. 

"It is important to stress that the neighbourhood plan process is open and transparent and so, should it be necessary for the matter to be considered further, the appropriate forum for doing so is through the courts and not through the media."

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