High Court decision on Southbourne homes a ‘bitter blow’

Lib Dem councillor Jonathan Brown
Lib Dem councillor Jonathan Brown

A High Court challenge has failed to overturn a decision allowing a new development in Southbourne.

Chichester District Council refused planning permission for 34 homes east of Breach Avenue last year.

However, a Government-appointed planning inspector overturned that decision back in November at appeal,

The council launched a High Court challenge and the case was heard in June.

However a High Court judge has dismissed the council’s arguments, allowing the housing scheme to proceed.

A spokesman for the council said: “We are disappointed by the ruling of the High Court, and have concerns regarding the judgement handed down.

“Neighbourhood plans are an important and valued part of the planning system and we will now consider a further challenge through the Court of Appeal.”

Jonathan Brown, a Lib Dem district councillor for Southbourne, said: “I am disappointed and angry. We have been badly let down - but I think by central government rather than the courts.

“Neighbourhood plans are supposed to be the work of normal local people, not specialist lawyers. When residents have done everything asked of them and have created a plan that passed inspection it is the government’s duty to back us up.

“The minister has failed to defend the principle of neighbourhood planning. This decision is a bitter blow to local democracy and public engagement in good faith. It’s especially sad given that our plan has actually achieved a great deal.”

In his decision report, planning inspector Simon Warder concluded the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing land.

He also said: “I have found that the proposal would not conflict with the policies of the NP [neighbourhood plan] and would not materially exacerbate congestion at the railway crossing.

“As such, it would not cause harm in respect of the underlying reason why the NP seeks to restrict development north of the railway line.”

The council challenged the original appeal decision on two grounds. Firstly it argued the planning inspector had failed to decide whether the proposed development conflicts with the neighbourhood plan and secondly he had irrationally relied upon a distinction between policies of the neighbourhood plan and its aims.

In the High Court judgement, judge Andrew Grubb said: “It is plain to me that the inspector concluded that the proposed development did not conflict with the NP.”

He went on to the say the inspector ‘did not fall into error in concluding the proposed development was not in conflict with the neighbourhood plan’.

A statement from Southbourne Parish Council said: “The parish council is disappointed that the High Court has dismissed Chichester District Council’s challenge to the planning inspector’s decision allowing 34 houses to be built at Breach Avenue Southbourne, contrary to the neighbourhood plan.

“The parish council is concerned about the impact this might have on the community and the neighbourhood plan review. It understands Chichester District Council is considering appealing the High Court’s decision.”

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