Council ponders fresh legal bid over Clenchwarton homes ruling

Former Fosters S&SC site at Clenchwarton ANL-150713-090746009

Former Fosters S&SC site at Clenchwarton ANL-150713-090746009

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Last month, West Norfolk Council lost a High Court action against the decision of a government planning inspector to approve plans for 40 homes on the former Fosters sports ground.

The key issue in the case was whether the council could demonstrate it had a five-year supply of deliverable housing land in the borough.

The judge backed the inspector’s view that it could not and had less than two years of available land.

However, officers say they calculated they had seven and a half years of available land, basing that figure on the methods applied by another inspector when developers’ previous appeal over the Fosters site was rejected three years ago.

They also say that the majority of councils across the country are facing similar difficulties.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, environment and planning manager Geoff Hall said the council was disappointed it had still not received the written judgment, four weeks after the ruling was first delivered.

Asked whether the council could appeal against the judgment, he said: “I don’t rule it out.”

But he added: “I think we have to assume that, until we see that (the written judgment), we don’t have a five year supply and we have to act accordingly.”

Parish council representatives were given a briefing on the issue this week and the implications for potential developments in their communities.

The judge’s ruling means that previous council policies are considered to be out of date and applications must now be considered in line with national planning policy guidelines.

The rules state that there should be “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

Officials have admitted that one scheme which could benefit is the controversial application by Hopkins Homes for around 170 homes on the southern edge of Hunstanton.

But the authority has stressed that applications will be examined on an individual basis.

Mr Hall said: “It does not mean ‘anything goes’.”

But planning control manager Stuart Ashworth conceded it was likely that developments which would previously have been rejected could now get through.