Objectors given permission to legally challenge Waverley Council's new local plan

Objectors to Waverley Borough Council's new local plan have been granted permission to legally challenge the document at a High Court hearing.

Waverley Borough Council: local plan legal challenge
Waverley Borough Council: local plan legal challenge

A High Court judge has allowed the Surrey branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) to pursue its judicial review at a full hearing on the grounds that a planning inspector incorrectly decided that Waverley should accommodate housing need from neighbouring Woking Borough Council.

Waverley Council adopted its Local Plan Part 1, which covers strategic policies and sites, in February. 

The plan provides for at least 11,210 new homes from 2013 to 2032, equivalent to 590 homes per annum. This includes catering for half of Woking Council’s unmet need, which adds a further 83 homes per year to the housing target.

But CPRE argued that inspector Jonathan Bore's recommendation via a proposed modification that  Waverley should accommodate half of the unmet housing need from Woking Borough was made for "inexplicable and perverse" reasons.

At a hearing on Thursday, Mr Justice Lewis also granted permission to local action group POWCampaign Ltd to challenge the former housing secretary Sajid Javid's granting of permission in April for 1,800 homes at Dunsfold Aerodrome, the council said.

POWCampaign Ltd argued that the permission would be unlawful as it was dependent upon three local plan policies (ALH1, SS7 and SS7A) that are under challenge as having been adopted unlawfully.

Both cases will be heard at a full hearing, according to the council.

However, the council said the judge dismissed other grounds of the challenge, including CPRE Surrey's argument that the plan inspector did not properly consider environmental constraints - including the harm to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the London metropolitan green belt  - when calculating Waverley’s objectively assessed housing need.

It also said POWCampaign Ltd's two other grounds - that the secretary of state failed to apply policy protections in relation to ancient woodland and that he failed to have regard to material parts of the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework - were also dismissed as unarguable.

A third challenge to Waverley’s local plan, brought by a Mr and Mrs House, was recently dismissed by the High Court, the council added.

Julia Potts, council leader, said: "We are very pleased that the judge rejected most of the challenges to Waverley’s local plan.

"Nevertheless, today’s judgment is disappointing as we now must go back to court on what is essentially a technical issue. 

"Waverley had to accept the inspector’s modifications that included taking a proportion of Woking’s unmet need. The inspector’s reasoning is being called into question.

"We remain committed to the adopted local plan; it has not been quashed, it is adopted and remains our principal planning document and will continue to guide our planning decisions."

Potts said Waverley was "stuck between a rock and a hard place", because, to adopt a sound local plan, it had to accept the inspector’s modifications. The council also had to use taxpayers’ money to defend its position, she added.

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