Cheshire East to challenge key Court of Appeal ruling over green gap homes

Cheshire East is seeking to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling that found an inspector 'made no error of law' when allowing up to 170 homes on a site in Willaston that falls within the green gap.

Cheshire East: council is seeking leave to challenge Court of Appeal ruling
Cheshire East: council is seeking leave to challenge Court of Appeal ruling

The council said in a statement that it is seeking a Supreme Court ruling "in a bid to protect local planning powers and prevent developers ‘riding roughshod’ over councils’ development policies".

In 2013 developer Richborough Estates sought permission for the homes in Willaston. The application was allowed on appeal, but a High Court judge later overturned the inspector’s decision. Judges at the Court of Appeal then ruled that the inspector "made no error of law" when allowing the appeal.

The series of decisions considered how to interpret paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework, which says "relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites". In particular, the decisions looked at what could be considered "relevant policies for the supply of housing".

The planning inspector held that the council’s green gap policy should be considered a relevant policy for the supply of housing. He concluded that, because the council could not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, its green gap policy could not be considered up-to-date and the weight given to it should be reduced.

However, overturning the inspector’s decision, the High Court judge found the inspector had been wrong to regard the green gap housing policy as one that was out of date.

Judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that the NPPF policy would extend to plan policies that restrict locations for housing, including policies for the green belt, the general protection of the countryside, and for conserving the landscape of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.

Cheshire East Council said it is spearheading a "leave to appeal" to challenge the Court of Appeal ruling.

It said the aim was to "maintain the significance of local plans and neighbourhood plans in determining applications for development even where a council cannot show it has the required five-years’ deliverable housing land supply identified".

Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council's cabinet member for housing and planning, said: "We have thought about this long and hard and it is not something we do lightly. However, this court decision is too important to be allowed to go unchallenged. 

"It is clear to us it would have deeply detrimental implications for councils across the country and their powers to protect local communities from unplanned and unsustainable development."

Arnold said the council believe this action is necessary to "protect local people, their communities and our beautiful Cheshire East countryside".

"Otherwise, developers will be able to ride roughshod over locally-decided development policies," he said.

The council said its Supreme Court legal challenge is a joint action with Suffolk Coastal District Council.

Paul Campbell, co-managing director at Richborough Estates, said: "It is disappointing that Cheshire East Council and Suffolk Coastal have decided to seek permission to appeal from the Supreme Court, especially as they served the notice on the last day and the Court of Appeal had already refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"Our view is that the judgment is very clear and sound and we will rigorously defend our permission so that we can deliver the housing that Cheshire East so desperately needs."

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