Casebook: Court cases - Housing decision quashed on legal grounds

The deputy prime minister's decision to refuse permission for 187 dwellings to be built by developer Wimpey in Morpeth, Northumberland, against the recommendation of one of his inspectors has been struck down because of his ruling that there was no need for the development.

The developer's plans included play space within the scheme and the creation of football pitches on the town's common. Local residents opposed the project because it would lead to the loss of a large informal area of open space, which they claimed formed part of the town's amenities and character.

The inspector had been factually incorrect in finding that there was no need for the scheme because he had decided that there was a shortfall of approximately 200 dwellings, Mr Justice Ouseley held. The judge stated that it was very surprising that the issue of housing need had not been properly dealt with by the deputy prime minister and determined that this error of law justified quashing the decision.

The judge did not uphold the developer's argument that the deputy prime minister had breached inquiry procedure rules and had wrongly concluded that the site involved greenfield land. Nonetheless, his finding on housing need was sufficient to have the appeal reheard before a different inspector, he ruled.

Wimpey v First Secretary of State; Date: 22 September 2004; Ref: CO/2306/2004.

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