Legal challenge to stop Southbourne housing fails

Potential layout of 34 homes east of Breach Avenue Southbourne
Potential layout of 34 homes east of Breach Avenue Southbourne

A new development in Southbourne can now go ahead after a High Court legal challenge failed.

Chichester District Council refused planning permission for 34 homes east of Breach Avenue back in 2017, but a Government-appointed planning inspector overturned the decision at appeal.

The council then launched a High Court challenge but when this was unsuccessful it took the case to the Court of Appeal.

However this too has been dismissed with an official ruling published last week.

A spokesman for Chichester District Council said: “We are disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s ruling, because we felt that the inspector didn’t take sufficient account of the Southbourne Neighbourhood Plan when making their judgement. The purpose of a neighbourhood plan is to provide local people with the chance to influence where development should be placed within their area.

“What’s important now is that we continue to work closely with community groups in the district to bring their neighbourhood plans forward and plan positively for new developments in their areas.”

Although the inspector in his appeal decision found the proposed housing development conflicted with two policies in the Chichester local plan and did not accord with the aims of the neighbourhood plan for the location of new housing, he ruled it would not conflict with the policies of the neighbourhood plan.

The district council argued that developer Beechcroft’s application conflicted with both the aims and policies of the neighbourhood plan and the inspector should have seen that.

When the neighbourhood plan was being prepared the site in question was rejected as a suitable location for housing development.

The council believed the development was in conflict with the plan because it was outside the settlement boundary established for Southbourne and because it was not one of the allocated sites.

But in his judgement Lord Justice Lindblom rejected these arguments.

The ruling said: “In my view the inspector’s understanding of the relevant policies of the development plan was correct. Nor did he misinterpret or misapply, or overlook the policy in paragraph 198 of the National Planning Policy Framework.”

He described how when the inspector had conducted his overall balancing exercise he accurately identified the proposal’s conflict with the development plan, but reduced the weight he gave to these policies because of the district council’s inability to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

The judgement concluded: “None of the inspector’s conclusions betrays any misinterpretation or misapplication of the development plan policies in play. There is nothing unlawful, or indeed surprising, about them. They represent a series of reasonable planning judgments in the application of the relevant policies,”