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Government calls Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s decision to lodge review into 270-home Watermill Bridge appeal ‘a barely disguised attack’





The Government has called a council’s decision to lodge a review into an appeal decision which will see 270 homes built just south of Newbury “a barely disguised attack”.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council confirmed last week that it would be attempting to lodge a statutory review into the appeal decision which will allow the large residential development to be constructed.

An aerial view of what Watermill Bridge will look like when built, credit: Bewley Homes
An aerial view of what Watermill Bridge will look like when built, credit: Bewley Homes

The 270-home development in question, Watermill Bridge, would be located just south of the county border in Hampshire, on a patch of land between the A34 and Andover Road.

A letter sent by a Government solicitor on behalf of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove has been obtained by Newburytoday.

The pre-action response letter was sent to the borough council in reply to its pre-action letter, which set out the council’s intent to lodge the statutory review.

The response letter states that the government has reviewed the contents of the pre-action letter, and it considers that any proposed ground of challenge is “without any merit”.

This is the site where the 270 homes will be located
This is the site where the 270 homes will be located

It also states that “The Secretary of State will robustly contest any claim in full”.

The letter sets out several examples in statute that, according to the Government, back up the planning inspector’s decision to uphold the appeal.

The letter ends: “As such, the proposed claim is without any merit. It ultimately amounts to a barely disguised attack on the planning judgment reached by the inspector.

“That is not a matter for the court, absent irrationality.

An artist's impression of what Watermill Bridge will look like once it has been built, credit: Bewley Homes
An artist's impression of what Watermill Bridge will look like once it has been built, credit: Bewley Homes

“The very high threshold to demonstrate irrationality is not even arguably met in this case.”

Baughurst-based housing developer Bewley Homes put forward the Watermill Bridge plans.

Bewley’s managing director Andrew Brooks said: “It’s on the back of the Secretary of State’s rebuttal that the local authority feels it is important to re-direct hard-earned taxpayer money, which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, on a point that is so tenuous.

“Both the Government and local authorities have no bigger responsibility than to provide housing for local people in need.

“Fundamentally, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council are failing its residents and this most recent action, in challenging an appeal decision and Secretary of State guidance, thoroughly supports my stance on this matter.

“Whilst the objectors and some local people with homes might feel it’s a good use of taxpayers’ money to submit a statutory review, I am sure the 5,000 families sitting on housing waiting lists in Basingstoke would not agree.”

A Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council spokesperson said: “After taking legal advice, the council issued proceedings to challenge the appeal decision on a point of law as a public law statutory challenge.

“The council awaits hearing from the High Court whether permission has been granted to proceed with the challenge.

“Prior to issuing such proceedings the Civil Procedure Rules require a claimant to send a pre-action protocol letter detailing the proposed claim and the remedy sought.

“The council sent a pre-action letter and the Secretary of State responded indicating that were a challenge to be issued then it would be defended.”

The Watermill Bridge plans were put forward by Bewley Homes in November 2021 but were rejected by the council last April.

Bewley appealed the council’s decision and this was upheld by the Planning Inspectorate on January 29.



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