Judge revives East Sussex local plan challenge

A judge has backed a move by a consortium of landowners to appeal a refusal of its legal challenge against an East Sussex council's key planning document.

In February, a High Court judge dismissed the challenge brought by the group, known as Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP, to the council’s "Core Strategy Local Plan" (CSLP).

But today judge Lord Justice Lewison revived the legal challenge, ruling that one of the consortium’s grounds of challenge was sufficiently arguable for the case to go to the Court of Appeal.

Though he rejected other proposed grounds of appeal, he found that the consortium had a "real prospect of success" on its claim that the High Court judge, Mr Justice Sales, mishandled its complaints over the council’s handling of the need to provide suitable alternative natural green space to make up for the impact on nearby Ashdown Forest from the development, increased traffic, and more visitors.

When the one-day appeal is heard, likely before the end of the year, the consortium will argue that the council failed to consider alternatives to a requirement that all development within a 7km radius should be subject to such a requirement of replacement green space.

Those, it says, could have included a different radius, or alternative measures of mitigating harm to the forest.

Lord Justice Lewison said that Mr Justice Sales had found that, while the council did not reject possible alternatives explicitly, it did so implicitly.

But he said that the consortium had an arguable point on whether an implicit rejection was enough for the council to meet its obligations under European law.

The consortium complains that an allocation of 9,440 homes up to the year 2030 is not enough to meet the needs of the area, and that the figure should be closer to the 11,000 contained in the former South East Plan, which was revoked after the CSLP was adopted.

Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP. v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Os. Case Number: C1/2014/1148

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