Pickles’ decision to scrap housing targets illegal

Aaron Morby 14 years ago
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Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has lost a High Court battle with Cala Homes over scrapping regional housing targets.

The High Court found that the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government acted unlawfully in unilaterally scrapping the regional planning system in July.

Today’s judgment effectively reinstates planning policies and housing targets until the Localism Bill becomes law, which is expected by the end of 2011.

Other house builders have launched similar legal action after seeing their schemes refused planning.

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

Developer Colonnade Land is also taking legal action over a decision to block 326 homes at Rochford in Essex.

Pickles had said he wanted to return planning powers to local communities. An aide said that no appeal was planned.

At the earlier court hearing Peter Village QC, appearing for Cala Homes (South), told the judge Pickles was seeking to revoke regional strategies through an executive decision.

Village argued primary legislation should have been introduced, giving Parliament the opportunity to debate an issue crucial to future planning in England.

Pickles’ decision “struck at the heart of parliamentary democracy”, he said.

Communities and Local Government minister Bob Neill said the judgment changed little.

“The Government remains firmly resolved to scrap this layer of confusing red tape. Instead, we will work with local communities to build more homes.

“This was a commitment made in the coalition agreement and in the general election manifestos of both coalition parties. We intend to deliver on it.”

Andrew Whitaker, Planning Director of the Home Builders Federation said: “HBF and the industry remain keen to work with government to ensure that changes to the planning system are introduced in a clear and methodical way.

“Everyone involved in the delivery of housing, both private and public sectors, has been struggling with the policy vacuum caused by the revocation of Regional Strategies.

“Today’s judgment allows the Government to put in place a clear transition to get from the old system to the proposed localism based one, ” he added.

“This will avoid throwing away the many years of planning for future housing delivery in which many people, including local communities, have invested their time and money.”

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