Cheshire East loses High Court fight over 94 homes approval

Plans for a 94-home development at Sandbach in Cheshire have survived a High Court challenge after a judge ruled that a planning inspector was entitled to conclude that the council could not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

A judge has rejected Cheshire East Council’s claim that a planning inspector was wrong to approve Rowland Homes’ plans for Elworth Hall Farm, Dean Close, Sandbach, after the council had refused planning permission.

The council argued that the inspector made errors in his determination of a key issue in the case, whether it had demonstrated that it could provide enough housing development to meet demand over a five year period.

It also expressed concerns that he had failed in his duties under the European Habitats Directive, with protected species including bats and great crested newts having been spotted on the land.

But Mr Justice Lewis dismissed all of its grounds of challenge to the inspector’s grant of planning permission in April.

The judge said that the inspector had been entitled to conclude that an additional 20 per cent buffer to the five year supply of housing was required to be demonstrated due to persistent failure to meet targets in the area since 2008.

Over six years, the inspector had found a shortfall of more than 3,000 homes.

The judge said: "The conclusion that the claimant had a record of persistent under delivery of housing, not least because it had failed to meet its housing targets over almost 6 years since 2008/09, was one that the inspector was entitled to reach on the evidence before him".

And backing his conclusion that the five year future supply was not met, he added: "The inspector was not required to identify precisely the amount of housing land available, only whether the amount was less than needed for the next five years.

"In deciding whether to allow the appeal and grant planning permission, the inspector correctly considered the question of whether or not the claimant was able to demonstrate it had a five year supply of housing land.

"The inspector was entitled to reach the conclusion that the claimant had not done so and gave adequate intelligible reasons for that conclusion. In those circumstances, the inspector correctly considered the question of whether the proposed development represented sustainable development. He was entitled on the material before him to conclude that it was."

As for the environmental issues, the judge said that the inspector had proceeded on the basis that there had been sightings of European Protected Species including great crested newts and bats on the site, but concluded that it was unlikely that conservation body Natural England would refuse a licence for the works to go ahead on the evidence available.

He said: "The inspector in the present case proceeded on the basis that the implementation of the proposed development may involve the disturbance of European Protected Species but he did not consider that it would be unlikely that the relevant licensing body would grant any licence ultimately found to be necessary. He did, therefore, on the facts of this case discharge his obligation."

Cheshire East Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case No: CO/2346/2014


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