WEST Berkshire Council is challenging the Government once again in an attempt to quash a planning appeal that it says has left it in a prejudicial position over future housing sites.
The council has launched a claim in the High Court of Justice to overturn a decision made by the Planning Inspectorate which granted permission to build up to 90 houses at Firlands Farm, Burghfield Common.
The council had refused Henry Davidson Development Burghfield Common Ltd permission to build up to 129 homes on the site in 2014.
In reaching his decision, Planning Inspector Kevin Ward ruled that the council’s housing strategy and figures were out of date as it had not produced an updated plan within the allocated three-year period.
This led council opponents to say that communities could be lumbered with large housing developments which the council would be unable to prevent.
However, the council is arguing that Mr Ward failed to apply the correct planning tests in determining the appeal; leaving it “substantially prejudiced” as a result.
The council’s portfolio holder for planning, Alan Law (Con, Basildon), said: “It is very important that Planning Inspectors are challenged when we believe they get things so wrong that it prejudices the council in determining other planning applications for housing.
“The council has worked hard over many years to get the Core Strategy adopted following stringent Government guidelines. We are currently doing this again, following unprecedented evidence gathering and public consultation, with the forthcoming Housing Site Allocations Development Plan Document. This will complete the picture for West Berkshire regarding future housing.
“We simply cannot allow all that effort and proper process to be totally disregarded and overturned by an individual Planning Inspector.
“We owe that duty to the people of West Berkshire who would not expect any less from us.”
When the council’s Core Strategy was approved in 2012 the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government, said it was under the proviso that housing figures – carried out via a Strategic Housing Marketing Assessment – be reassessed by July 2015.
The council is currently working with other local authorities to update its figures but Mr Ward said that this process had only started in January despite the council having three years to work on it.
Leader of the West Berkshire Liberal Democrats, Alan Macro (Theale), said the council had taken too long to begin the process.
“That left the way open for developers to question the housing land supply,” he said, pointing out that proposals for hundreds of homes at Siege Cross in Thatcham, ‘Henwick Park’ in Cold Ash and Mans Hill, Burghfield had been lodged by developers.
“The flood gates have been opened. We just have to hope that the council’s judicial challenge in the High Court is successful otherwise they are going to have this all over.”