Log in | Register

Sevenoaks challenges Planning Inspectorate’s ruling on local plan

Words: Laura Edgar
Sevenoaks / iStock-586186838

Sevenoaks District Council has launched a judicial review against an inspector’s recommendation to withdraw its local plan.

In October 2019, inspector Karen L Baker reported that she had “significant” concerns about several aspects of the plan.

Her main doubt related to a “lack of constructive engagement” with neighbouring authorities to resolve the issue of unmet housing need and the absence of cross-boundary planning to identify how this need could be accommodated.

The council “strongly” disagrees with this conclusion, however. 

In January this year, it vowed that it would not voluntarily withdraw its draft local plan. This was in response to a letter from Baker sent at the end of 2019.

She said that unless the council confirmed that it would withdraw the plan from examination, she would prepare a report concluding that the plan is not legally compliant in respect of the duty to cooperate and recommend that it should not be adopted. She gave the council until Friday 17 January.

In a statement published on its website on 17 April, the council said more than 800 pages of evidence were submitted for examination, setting out how it had worked with its neighbours during the production of the plan.

Peter Fleming, leader of Sevenoaks District Council, says: “Taking legal action is not something we would undertake lightly and demonstrates we are serious about standing up for our residents and our cherished environment, against what we believe is a fundamental failure by the Planning Inspectorate to take account of the weight of evidence in front of them.

“Working with landowners, communities and developers, our new local plan put forward innovative solutions to deliver almost 10,000 homes and improved infrastructure while protecting nearly all of our green belt. It’s a huge frustration that, after so much work, we cannot take our plan forward at this time.

“In our view, concluding we failed to cooperate with neighbouring councils was the only way to halt the examination. We reject this. We gave the planning inspector detailed evidence of our work with our neighbours and, from the start, they said they couldn’t accommodate the homes we could not deliver.”

Julia Thornton, cabinet member for development & conservation, added: “If the inspector did have significant concerns over our duty to cooperate, these should have been raised soon after we had submitted our plan, not months later. We fundamentally disagree with the inspector’s conclusions and firmly believe key parts of the local plan requirements have been incorrectly interpreted.”

The housing secretary now has the opportunity to respond before a judge decides whether the judicial review should proceed.

Read more:

Inspector advises Sevenoaks to take back its local plan

Planning Inspectorate rebuts Sevenoaks plan attack

Sevenoaks vows not to withdraw plan

Image credit | iStock