Parish council wins decisive victory over local authority in new homes battle
East Bergholt Parish Council has won its battle against Babergh District Council in a test case which will have immediate implications for housing developments in the area as well as the district– and potentially in other parts of rural England too.
The High Court has today (9 December 2016) ruled that Babergh District Council’s planning decision to allow 10 homes to be built in the village of East Bergholt, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the county of Suffolk, was flawed as it did not take account of the village’s needs as set out in Babergh District Council’s own Local Plan – and permission for the development was quashed.
Stewart Wilkinson, a senior associate at law firm RWK Goodman, who acted for East Bergholt Parish Council, said they were delighted with the decision. “This is a decisive and strategic win for the Parish Council which represents the villagers of East Bergholt and which challenged Babergh District Council’s disregard for the needs of the local community when it granted planning permission for this and other major developments in the village.”
Mr Bowman continued: “The Judge decided that Babergh District Council had made a number of material legal errors, including misrepresenting to councillors what “local housing needs” means in the context of the Local Plan. Councillors had been told that they needed to take into account the needs of the district as a whole, when in fact they had to take into account only the needs of the core village and its immediate environs. He agreed with the Parish Council’s interpretation and evidence that the needs of the local area are different to those of the wider district. He also agreed that the Council had failed to carry out the correct exercise in deciding whether this development on land within the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had an exceptional reason to overrule the ordinary prohibition on development.”
The judicial review, which was heard at the High Court earlier this week (7th and 8th December 2016), concerned the building of 10 homes in East Bergholt, best known for inspiring the works of landscape artist John Constable. A separate decision by Babergh District Council to allow 144 homes to be built on another site in the same village, is being reconsidered – but campaigners believe it is unlikely to be given the green light following today’s High Court decision. Another development now in the planning process for over 75 homes at another site in the village is also affected.
Overall, the development of more than 415 houses in rural parts of Suffolk depended on the outcome of this case. This decision is seen as a major setback to Babergh District Council’s plans to grant permissions for more housing developments in the rural villages within its district and could have a significant effect on its financial position given its reliance on the Central Government funds granted under the New Homes Bonus.
Note to Editors
The dispute between East Bergholt Parish Council and Babergh District Council arose after the district council’s planning committee approved two separate applications to build a total of 154 homes in the village of East Bergholt at a time when the Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Development Plan was still being finalised. A third development of an additional 75 houses in the village, is currently going through the planning process.
Neighbourhood planning is a right for communities, introduced through the Localism Act 2011, which enables people to shape developments in their area in response to their local needs. Neighbourhood development plans become part of the local plan and the policies contained within them are used to help determine planning applications.
East Bergholt’s plan was nearing completion when the two planning applications were approved. The permissions were in sharp contrast with the majority of residents’ vision for the organic development of the village and the building style wasn’t in keeping with other houses or its setting within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The vision for the future of the village was approved by 94 per cent of the villagers who voted in a referendum held in September.