Judge upholds Wealden decision to scrap review

Wealden District Council's abandonment of its local plan review in the run-up to the revised planning system was upheld by the Court of Appeal this week.

The court ruled that the East Sussex Council was justified in discontinuing its local plan review so that it could prepare a local development framework.

Wealden had sought to create a non-statutory local plan in the interim to avoid the expense of holding two public inquiries in a relatively short period of time.

But in March the High Court determined that its action was unlawful after a challenge by Martin Grant Homes and Taylor Woodrow (Planning, 11 March, p3). The council appealed in July (Planning, 1 July, p2).

Overturning the High Court ruling, Lord Justice Mummery said: "The council had a discretion to withdraw the local plan review when it did and for the reasons that it did. It acted in a way that was consistent with the aims of planning legislation."

The ruling spares the council from what could have proved to be a costly re-examination of the matter. Keith Whitehead, cabinet member for sustainable development, welcomed the outcome.

"The Court of Appeal upheld the council's decision to adopt an economical and sensible approach to the logjam that was developing in the strategic planning process," he insisted.

"We were determined to stand up to pressure from developers hungry for planning permission to exploit the potential of land in their control." The developers were refused permission to appeal to the House of Lords but may still petition the law lords directly for an appeal hearing.

The local authority will hold two full council meetings later this month to seek approval for the non-statutory plan while it continues to prepare its development framework.

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