High Court judge overturns inspector's 110-home refusal

A High Court judge has overturned a planning inspector's refusal of plans for 110 homes on an Oxfordshire farm.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

Landowner Claire Engbers’ proposal for Thames Farm, near Shiplake, was rejected first by South Oxfordshire District Council, then on appeal by a planning inspector.

But now a judge has ruled that the inspector’s decision was flawed and must be quashed. Mr Justice Holgate ordered the secretary of state for communities and local government to have the matter reconsidered.

Christopher Lockhart-Mummery QC had argued on Engbers' behalf that it was "legally unfair" of the inspector to dismiss her appeal because he had unexpectedly treated concerns over visibility and highway safety at a road crossing crossing point as a major issue.

The crossing point was intended to form part of a pedestrian route between the appeal site and local facilities such as schools and a railway station. The inspector found that the increase in use of the crossing would be "likely to have a severe adverse residual cumulative effect on the safety and convenience of highway users".

But the judge ruled that Engbers was not given a "proper or sufficient" indication that issues which became "determinative in the appeal" would be raised.

He said: "Crucially, these issues were not raised by the inspector with the claimant, the highway authority or any other party. It cannot be said that the claimant ought reasonably to have been aware from the material available and from what took place at the inquiry that the matters relating to the pedestrian crossing point, on which the inspector dismissed the appeal, should be addressed."

Lockhart-Mummery had argued that this had not been a main issue before the inspector at the appeal inquiry, and that it was agreed between the applicant and the local authority that this issue could be dealt with by detailed design of the proposal.

Engbers v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/2984/2015

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