Judge backs developers' challenge over supplementary planning document

A High Court judge has quashed part of a Leicestershire council's housing supplementary planning document on grounds that the document covered topics that were 'not appropriate'.

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

Charnwood Borough Council's local plan envisaged the construction of 13,940 homes between 2011 and 2028, mostly in Leicester, Loughborough and Shepshed, although also providing for 3,000 homes in small towns and larger villages.

The policy was formulated on the basis that there would be a growing need for smaller households due to greater longevity and the fact that couples bore children later in life.

In May this year, the council also published a housing supplementary planning document that addressed the mix of homes of particular sizes to be built over the next 25 years.

As a supplementary document, it was not subject to independent scrutiny by the secretary of state for communities and local government as a fully fledged development plan document would have been.

The document sought to set aside up to 45 per cent of the total build over the period for one and two-bedroom homes, 45-55 per cent for three-bedroom homes and 10-20 per cent of four-bedroom homes.

It also sought to lay down that 60-70 per cent of one and two-bedroom homes would be affordable.

Five property developers - William Davis Limited, Bloor Homes Limited, Jelson Homes Limited, Davidsons Homes Limited and Barwood Homes Limited - mounted a judicial review challenge against the document on the basis that it was "too prescriptive" and addressed topics that were "not appropriate" for a supplementary planning document.

Upholding the developers' arguments, Mr Justice Gilbart said that a supplementary planning document was not an appropriate vehicle for addressing issues of such strategic importance.

The overall mix of housing across the council's area should have been opened up for debate and subjected to independent scrutiny.

The council had also carried out no assessment of the document's impact on the financial viability of housing development proposals.

The judge noted that it was pointless to set housing targets, or seek to encourage the housebuilding industry to provide more homes, without addressing whether policies put in place were so restrictive as to frustrate those objectives.

The crucial part of the document that dealt with housing mix over the 25-year period was quashed.

William Davis Limited & Ors v Charnwood Borough Council. Case Number: CO/2920/2017

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