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High Court throws out challenge to neighbourhood plan

Words: Huw Morris
Cheshire countryside

The High Court has dismissed a judicial review challenge by house builders to a council's decision to put a draft neighbourhood plan to a referendum.

Barratt Homes and Wainhomes Developments alongside Taylor Wimpey had each applied for planning permission to build on three greenfield sites on the edge of Tattenhall, Cheshire. The sites would have respectively seen 137, 68 and 110 homes built.
The sites are within the area covered by the draft Tattenhall Neighbourhood Development Plan. Each planning application had been recommended for approval, but were refused by Cheshire West Council’s planning committee.
The plan said “large scale, inappropriate development along existing village boundaries will not be supported by the community”.
A referendum endorsed a vision for a “sustainable and successful” future for the village, by 905 votes to 38. The ballot produced a 51.86 per cent turnout of the 1,822 eligible voters.
In the High Court, Barratt Homes and Wainhomes contended that the plan was flawed because of a failure to comply with the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and had breached the duty on the council to ensure the plan met the basic conditions of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) regulations 2012. They also questioned the impartiality of its independent examiner Nigel McGurk.
However Mr Justice Supperstone concluded that none of the grounds had succeeded. He did not consider that the "fair minded and informed observer having considered the relevant facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that Mr McGurk was biased".
The council’s executive will now be requested to formally "make" the plan, which will stand alongside the Local Plan and guide future development decisions.
Cheshire West also said it would be writing to communities secretary Eric Pickles, who had postponed the decision on the companies’ planning appeals.