Oxfordshire council fails in High Court effort to block village homes

An Oxfordshire council has failed in a High Court challenge to block plans for a housing development on the edge of a village after a judge rejected its arguments that an inspector had ignored critical parts of its emerging local plan.

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

Developer Rosconn Strategic Land Ltd wants to build up to 29 new homes on an open field and pastureland adjoining the village of Enstone.

But West Oxfordshire District Council resisted the plans, saying they would "encroach unacceptably" into an unspoilt part of the Glyme Valley.

The new homes would have an "urbanising" impact on the countryside and nearby listed buildings and would be "highly prominent in public view", it said.

The council refused planning permission but, following a public inquiry, this was overruled by a planning inspector in April.

The inspector, Matthew Nunn, applied a "tilted balance" in favour of the project because the council did not have a five-year supply of housing land.

The council conceded that, in a worst case scenario, it only had a 4.9-year supply, but Rosconn argued the shortfall was much greater than that.

The inspector accepted that the development would lead to the loss of open pastureland, but ruled its disadvantages were outweighed by benefits.

The construction of up to 29 new homes, half of which would be affordable, was a "weighty benefit for the area", he said.

Challenging the inspector's decision at London's High Court, council lawyers said the inspector had ignored critical parts of its emerging local plan.

In particular, they pointed to the policy requirement that developments must "conserve and enhance" the local landscape.

But Judge David Elvin QC said the emerging local plan was at a formative stage and the inspector was entitled to take that into account.

It was not credible to suggest that he had ignored local planning policies, he ruled.

Some of the council's detailed criticisms were "misconceived" or based on a "legalistic" reading of the inspector's decision, he added.

The judge could not fault the balancing exercise carried out by the inspector in his "clearly structured and well-reasoned" decision.

The council's appeal was dismissed and the planning permission upheld.

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

Last month, a council's attempt to overturn an appeal decision allowing plans for nine environmentally-friendly 'eco homes' in countryside in Nottinghamshire failed in the High Court.

West Oxfordshire District Council v The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government & Anr. Case Number: CO/2242/2018

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