Court of Appeal revives legal challenge to Surrey local plan

The Court of Appeal has granted permission for campaigners to proceed with a legal challenge to Waverley Borough Council's local plan, in a move that the authority's leader has described as "extremely disappointing".

Legal challenge: Waverley Borough Council
Legal challenge: Waverley Borough Council

Campaign groups CPRE Surrey and the Protect Our Waverley (POW) Campaign have been given permission to appeal a High Court ruling last year that rejected their bids to overturn the council’s local plan. 

The Court of Appeal decision paves the way for a hearing later this year which will see CPRE Surrey and POW Campaign argue that Waverley should not be required to accommodate half of neighbouring Woking Borough Council’s unmet housing need.

Waverley adopted its local plan in February last year and has described the legal challenges against its policies as "irresponsible".

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.

At last year's hearing, CPRE argued that inspector Jonathan Bore's recommendation that Waverley should accommodate half of the unmet housing need from Woking borough was made for "inexplicable and perverse" reasons.

Julia Potts, leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: "This news is obviously extremely disappointing for us but we will, of course, be vigorously defending our adopted local plan.

"It should be remembered that Waverley did not bring this legal action but we have to defend both the borough and town and parish councils, whose neighbourhood plans are now threatened by this action. We all want appropriate plan-led development and we did everything possible at the inspection to defend a lower housing number.

"It is not possible to please everyone with any plan, and it is extremely disappointing that a few determined individuals continue to raise these legal challenges, despite the High Court upholding the local plan following the hearing in October 2018 and despite it having been approved by a government inspector.

"We are committed to preserving and protecting the adopted local plan, which will remain our principal planning document and will continue to guide our planning decisions."

Bob Lees, chairman at POW, said the decision was "great news". "It provides Waverley Borough Council with a golden opportunity to significantly reduce the mandatory number of new houses to be built in the borough over the next 14 years," he said.

"POW fought against the housing requirement at the examination of the plan. POW fought again in the High Court. POW will fight in the Court of Appeal. POW is fighting to protect our Waverley against unneeded development of our towns, of our villages and in our beautiful countryside."

As part of last year's legal challenge, POW also tried to overturn a decision by former housing secretary Sajid Javid's granting of permission in April 2018 for 1,800 homes at Dunsfold Aerodrome. 

POW 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 the bid was rejected by the High Court along with the local plan challenge.

POW announced last November that it is no longer trying to overturn the Dunsfold Aerodrome permission.

*NOTE: This story was revised at 4.30pm on Monday 4 March to make clear that the current legal challenge that was given permission to proceed by the Court of Appeal is against the local plan only and not the Dunsfold Aerodrome permission.

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