Neighbourhood Watch: Former planning minister's parish plan statement is focus of litigation

Reports that an Oxfordshire district has suffered a setback in its legal bid to overturn an inspector's approval of a 95-home scheme on a site not allocated in an adopted neighbourhood plan feature in the latest Neighbourhood Watch update.

Gavin Barwell: former minister issued written ministerial statement in December 2016
Gavin Barwell: former minister issued written ministerial statement in December 2016

In a decision issued in August, inspector John Braithwaite upheld an appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to refuse permission for a 95-home scheme on the 5.6-hectare Thames Farm site at Shiplake, Henley-on-Thames.

South Oxfordshire District Council had refused the application on a number of grounds, including that the site is not allocated for development in the Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Development Plan, which includes a policy allocating land for 500 homes.

But in his appeal decision, Braithwaite said that the housing policies in the neighbourhood development plan could not be considered to be up-to-date as he considered the local council to be unable to demonstrate a three-year supply of housing land.

As such, the inspector concluded, the protections in a written ministerial statement issued in December by the former planning minister Gavin Barwell should not apply.

The WMS means that, until 11 December 2018, all neighbourhood plans that are part of the development plan and allocate housing sites will not automatically be deemed out of date, as long as the LPA has a three year housing supply.

In September, South Oxfordshire District Council said that it had begun legal proceedings to quash the inspector’s ruling, "on the basis of legal errors in the decision".

But in a statement issued this week, John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: "We are disappointed that the council has been refused permission in the first instance to proceed with our application for judicial review in relation to Thames Farm.

"However, we have the right to renew our application and to present our case for this at a hearing, and this is what we shall do."

The news comes as the High Court this week heard a legal challenge to Barwell’s WMS.

Twenty-five claimants, including Richborough Estates, Redrow Homes, Linden, Wainhomes and Welbeck Strategic Land, are challenging the statement, which was issued on 12 December 2017.

The claimants contend that the government unlawfully introduced a major change of policy without any prior consultation.


- West Sussex: A referendum on the Bury Neighbourhood Plan has been postponed. Bury Parish Council said that following the receipt of an examiner’s report, the South Downs National Park Authority has leased with the plan steering group and some minor amendments have been made to some of the policies in the plan. "There will therefore be a procedural delay and the referendum will be held in the New Year," the parish council said.

- East Devon: The Uplyme Neighbourhood Plan has been backed by residents in a local referendum. Eighty-six per cent voted in favour on a 25 per cent turnout.

- London: The Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Forum has submitted its neighbourhood plan to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The next step for the plan is a six-week consultation arranged by the London borough.

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