Council needs to 'think again' about local plan's green belt designation, says Appeal Court

A council has failed in its attempt to overturn a High Court judgement which ruled that its adoption of a key development plan that redrew green belt boundaries was unlawful.

Tidbury Green, Solihull. Pic: Andrew Dubber, Flickr
Tidbury Green, Solihull. Pic: Andrew Dubber, Flickr

The Court of Appeal yesterday backed the judicial review by Gallagher Homes and Lioncourt Homes against Solihull Metropolitan District Council’s decision to adopt its local plan.

Lord Justice Laws said the council needs to "think again" about the relevant parts of the document, which reclassified two previously undesignated sites in the Tidbury Green area of Solihull as green belt.

The two developers argued that the green belt designation would thwart their plans to build almost 400 new homes on the sites and was unlawful because it failed to meet the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

In April, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, at Birmingham's High Court, backed their case and said the authority had failed to take into account the "radical" policy change brought about by the NPPF in relation to assessing housing need.

At the Court of Appeal, the council’s lawyer Christopher Katkowski QC argued that the judge made a "fundamental error" and the judgement of the planning inspector in recommending adoption of the plan had been "unimpeachable".

But Laws said the inspector’s recommendation did not meet the requirements of the NPPF and "was therefore flawed by error of law".

The NPPF, he said, required an objective assessment of an area’s full housing needs before any other planning policies could be taken into account, but the council had not done this.

Iain Gilbey, head of planning at law firm Pinsent Masons, which acted for the developers, said the judgment’s consequences were "wide ranging".

Those preparing local plans "cannot simply rely on the evidence they have prepared prior to the NPPF coming into force," said Gilbey.

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