High Court rejects legal challenges against Surrey local plan and 1,800-home approval

A double-pronged legal challenge against both a Surrey council's local plan and its planning consent for a 1,800-home development has been rejected by a High Court judge.

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

In July, a judge 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 neighbouring 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 in July, 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.

POWCampaign Ltd argued that the permission would be unlawful as it was dependent upon three local plan policies that were under challenge from CPRE Surrey as having been adopted unlawfully.

But Judge Nathalie Lieven QC today upheld both the local plan policies and the planning permission.

Judge Lieven acknowledged that the inspector who recommended adoption of the policy was "placed in a difficult position".

He was tasked with making an assessment of objectively assessed need in Waverley when Woking's local plan was still at a formative stage.

He was therefore not in a position to accurately calculate the projected level of unmet need in Woking or to assess the likelihood of various housing projects coming to fruition, she said.

But the inspector, the judge ruled, was under no duty to carry out a detailed "arithmetical exercise" and had taken "a sensible, pragmatic and lawful approach".

The reasons he gave were "perfectly adequate" and Waverley Council had, on his recommendation, been justified in adopting the policy.

Waverley Council, the judge added, is "undoubtedly considerably less constrained" than either Woking or Guildford in terms of green belt policy and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

"The contribution of the unmet need is only a relatively small part of the overall housing requirement," she told the court.

"It is inevitable, on whatever analysis is undertaken, that Waverley is going to have to provide a proportion, and probably a significant proportion, of Woking's undisputed level of unmet need."

Having upheld the underlying policy, the judge said the challenge to the Dunsfold Aerodrome planning permission "cannot succeed."

Julia Potts, the Conservative leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: "We are pleased to have been vindicated in the High Court – although it is a shame that, despite the adoption of the local plan having followed due process, we have had to use council tax payers’ money to defend the local plan against the legal actions of two campaign groups.

"Although I understand that planning for our future isn’t an easy subject, it is essential that we have a local plan that enables us to have the control to shape our borough for future generations.

"In addition, we will have our new community at Dunsfold Park, which will bring jobs, economic growth, education and of course - and most importantly - much needed new homes, with both affordable and market housing."

CPRE Surrey & Anr v Waverley Borough Council & Ors. Case Number: CO/1337/2018

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