Developers fail in target challenge

A consortium of developers has failed in a High Court bid to overturn the ODPM's decision to slash house building targets in regional planning guidance for the North West.

The consortium - J S Bloor, George Wimpey, Linden Homes, Morris Homes, Peel Investments, Redrow Homes and Westbury Homes - challenged deputy prime minister John Prescott's decision to cut regional house building targets by 15 per cent in the final version of RPG13 (Planning, 4 April, p4).

The builders claimed that Prescott had departed from planning policy as set out in PPG11 and been unfair in his decision to impose a housing figure 50,000 lower than in draft regional planning guidance and as recommended in the subsequent panel report. They argued that Prescott should have held another examination-in-public or convened meetings with the consortium to hear their grievances.

Rejecting the claimants' case, Mr Justice Richards reasoned: "The claimants had no legitimate expectation that the public examination before the panel would be reopened or that the secretary of state would hold meetings with them or that he would adopt any procedure other than that actually adopted."

North West-based planning consultant Gary Halman voiced disappointment with the result. Halman, director of HOW Planning, said: "A unilateral ruling to bring down the housing numbers should not happen. It undermines local democracy. While it is morally wrong, it is within Prescott's powers.

"RPG13 requires local authorities to bring in moratorium policies, with the result that logical and sustainable brownfield sites are put on the back burner. Much of this land is only suitable for housing - it will never have commercial uses."

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