Following legal advice from a leading planning QC, Swindon Borough Council will seek to challenge in the High Court the decision of the Planning Inspector who recently granted an appeal by a developer to build up to 100 homes at Berkeley Farm in Wroughton.
The appeal by Ainscough Strategic Land followed the refusal of the application by the council’s Planning Committee. The appeal was heard over four days last November and the inspector overturned the committee’s decision.
The legal challenge to the inspector’s decision will be brought under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The advice received by the council is that the Planning Inspector erred in law in two respects.
Firstly, that he has failed to properly apply the legal test under section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which requires that planning decisions are made by having regard to a local authority’s Local Plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
Secondly, that he has misdirected himself in law by suggesting in his report that the level of the shortfall in the Council’s required five-year housing land supply is immaterial to his decision.
Cllr Toby Elliott, Swindon Borough Council cabinet member for Communities and Strategic Planning, said: “The planning inspector’s decision is a disastrous one and we must stand up for local people and the integrity of the Local Plan process by challenging it. I am pleased that the legal advice we have been given supports this position.
“I hope this announcement gives the residents of Wroughton, who came together and produced a neighbourhood plan for their area, confidence that the Council is doing everything it can to challenge the planning inspector’s decision.”
The Swindon Labour Group have said they are opposed to Swindon Council taking this to judicial review, saying this would be a colossal waste of money.
The Labour Group have pointed to a Judicial Review in 2013 by the Cotswold District Council, where a planning application for 250 homes in Tetbury was granted on appeal by the inspector for the “persistent under-delivery of homes”, cost the District Council £120K. This decision was eventually upheld at Judicial Review by the judge.
The Labour Group’s Shadow Lead for Strategic Planning, Councillor Jim Robbins, said: “Taking this planning decision to Judicial Review would be the biggest waste of money in recent years by this Council. This planning application has already cost the Swindon taxpayer £35K by losing the appeal to the planning inspector and now they want to spend more than £120K on a Judicial Review.
“A similar planning application to Berkeley Farm, in Tetbury, was taken to Judicial Review and the planning permission was upheld because of a persistent under-delivery of homes built, the same reason the Berkeley Farm application was granted.
“If the Conservative administration go-ahead with this Judicial Review at huge cost, the only winner will be the Planning lawyers who will be defending the developer and Swindon Council and making huge sums of cash. When they are spending £100k on this and yet are closing children children’s centres and expecting Swindon residents to afford a 4% increase in Council-tax, one can only conclude that there is only money available for pet political projects of this Conservative administration.”