High Court backs Suffolk parish council in local needs case

A Suffolk parish council has triumphed in a High Court fight to block plans for new homes in the village of East Bergholt, in a case which lawyers claim could have wider implications for the relationship between local and neighbourhood plans.

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

In an oral judgement on Friday, Mr Justice Mitting ruled that Babergh District Council’s planning decision to allow 10 homes to be built in the village, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, was flawed.

Lawyers for East Bergholt Parish Council had claimed the proposed development would not be in keeping with the local residents’ vision for the village, as set out in an adopted neighbourhood plan.

David Bowman, a senior associate at law firm Royds Withy King, who acted for East Bergholt Parish Council, said the ruling was "a decisive and strategic win for the parish council .... and which challenged Babergh District Council’s disregard for the needs of the local community when it granted planning permission for this and other major developments in the village".

Bowman continued: "The judge decided that Babergh District Council had made a number of material legal errors, including misrepresenting to councillors what ‘local housing needs’ means in the context of the local plan.

"Councillors had been told that they needed to take into account the needs of the district as a whole, when in fact they had to take into account only the needs of the core village and its immediate environs. He agreed with the parish council’s interpretation and evidence that the needs of the local area are different to those of the wider district.

"He also agreed that the council had failed to carry out the correct exercise in deciding whether this development on land within the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had an exceptional reason to overrule the ordinary prohibition on development."

A statement from the Royds Withy King said that the development of more than 415 houses in rural parts of Suffolk "depended on the outcome of the case".

"This decision is seen as a major setback to Babergh District Council’s plans to grant permissions for more housing developments in the rural villages within its district and could have a significant effect on its financial position given its reliance on the central government funds granted under the New Homes Bonus", the firm said.

A statement from Babergh District Council said the authority would "consider the judgment carefully before making any further comment about the consequences of the court's decision, or the future consideration of this planning application".

As the judgement was delivered orally, a full transcript is not currently available. 

R on the Application of East Bergholt Parish Council v Babergh District Council. Case Number: CO/2375/2016

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