Fresh legal action over axed housing targets

Aaron Morby 13 years ago

Communities secretary Eric Pickles faces two more legal challenges from developers over his controversial decision to scrap regional housing targets.

House builder Catesby Property Group has taken on top legal firm Eversheds to challenge Pickles’ decision to refuse planning permission for a £50m development of 400 homes in Bude, Cornwall.

At the same time, developer Colonnade Land is also taking legal action over a decision to block 326 homes at Rochford in Essex.

Earlier this year Cala Homes led the legal fight back and is due to have its case heard in the High Court on 22 October.

Pickles abolished regional spatial strategies in July, which set out house building targets, arguing the Government was returning planning powers to local communities.

Since then councils have turned down countless planning applications to build homes.

Last week a survey by the National Housing Federation found that since the move by Pickles, 1,300 planned homes have been scrapped everyday.

The NHF predicts local authorities could eventually ditch up to 300,000 planned homes across the country

The crisis has prompted the house builders to challenge Pickles on several fronts.

Cala Homes and Colonade Land claim that Pickles acted unlawfully because scrapping the strategies required primary legislation and transitional arrangements should have been put in place before the announcement.

The challenge from Catesby Property Group takes a different tack.

Its green field site – which was to contain 30% affordable homes – was recommended for approval by the planning inspector at appeal.

But Pickles rejected the findings of the planning inspector when the decision to revoke regional spatial strategies was made.

Catesby will argue that the Secretary of State acted unlawfully by failing to notify them of this departure from the inspector’s recommendations and by not providing the opportunity to present evidence at a re-opened Inquiry.

Stuart Andrews, head of planning at Eversheds, said: “Catesby have been left with no other choice than to challenge this decision in response to a complete failure by the Secretary of State to afford the opportunity for a fair hearing and, more particularly, the opportunity to present evidence as to housing need.”

A Communities and Local Government Department spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate for the government to comment on any legal proceedings.”

Councils that have reduced housing plans

  • Milton Keynes Central – by 13,360 homes
  • Luton/Central Bedfordshire – 10,650 homes
  • Horsham District Council – 6,888 homes
  • Exeter City Council – 3,000 homes
  • Bristol City Council – 9,560 homes
  • Torbay Council – 5,000 homes
  • Cotswold District Council – 900 homes
  • North Somerset Council – 10,750 homes
  • North Hertfordshire Council and Stevenage Borough Council – have suspended plans for 9,200 homes.

Councils that intend to reduce their targets

  • Ashford Borough Council
  • Northampton Borough Council, Daventry District Council and South Northamptonshire Council (with regard to the West Northamptonshire Growth Area)
  • Leeds City Council
  • Aylesbury Vale

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