High Court rejects parish council legal challenge against Surrey homes approval

A High Court judge had rejected a legal challenge by a parish council against plans for a 400-home development in Surrey.

Ash Parish Council had hoped to persuade Mrs Justice Patterson to quash the grant of planning permission for the development near Ash, and to order Guildford Borough Council to reconsider the application put forward by developers Bewley Homes and A2 Developments for the 46 hectare site.
However, the judge has now sided with the council, the developers and 15 landowners whose parcels make up the greenfield site.

She rejected the parish council's claims that the borough council had wrongly failed to apply policy in the Guildford Local Plan that restricts countryside development, and that council members who narrowly voted in favour of the proposal had been "misled" by advice in the report of its planning officers.

She said: "Reading the report as a whole and in the context of oral advice given to members, in my judgment, it cannot be said that the councillors were significantly misled by the advice given to them."

She said that the report had made clear the "express primacy" of the area's development plan in decision-making, and set out that the site is an attractive piece of countryside, where there were policy constraints in the plan which sought to restrict development.

She went on: "Against those factors members were told to weigh the benefits of the proposal. Significant amongst those was the provision of housing development when there was a substantial and historic shortfall in the supply of housing in the area.

"In addition, affordable homes were to be provided which, at 40 per cent, was more than the policy requirement of the defendant. There were improvements to existing public transport and highway infrastructure, outdoor sports provision at Ash Manor School, a vocational centre, community allotments, reservation of land for a new health building and improvements to Ash Library.

These advantages, she said, were a material consideration capable of outweighing the countryside policy and the harm caused to the character of the land.

She said: "Members were advised that significant weight could attach to the substantial shortfall in housing land supply so that, as a matter of judgment, other material considerations outweighed the breach of the development plan. That was a classic matter of planning judgement for the decision makers that they were entitled to reach."

Though she said that report contained errors when it advised members that no weight should attach to the policy because it pre-dated the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) she added that that was not the only advice which is given about the relationship of the policy with the NPPF.

She said that to give the policy reduced weight was correct on the basis of the NPPF.

R on the Application of Ash Parish Council v Guildford Borough Council. Case Number: CO/1871/2014

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