Old Hunstanton parish council wins High Court battle over affordable homes scheme

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Old Hunstanton Parish Council has today won a stunning victory at London’s High Court in its fight over a proposed affordable housing development in the village.

The ruling reverses a government decision to grant planning permission for 15 units on the edge of the village.

The case centred around interpretation of local “rural exception site” planning rules which set out exemptions that can be made to policies which are designed to protect the green belt.

Setting out its position at a hearing earlier this month, Luke Wilcox, for the parish council, said the rules should only allow rural greenfield development if there is a “local identified need.”

But he argued that, as the occupants of the proposed and houses would most likely come from the nearby town of Hunstanton, not the village of Old Hunstanton, Old Hunstanton didn’t need the development.

He said that, in those circumstances, it should not be allowed to go ahead.

Delivering her ruling, the judge, Mrs Justice Lang, agreed and ordered that the permission granted last year by former communities secretary Eric Pickles to the developers, the Hastoe Housing Association, should be overturned.

In doing so she said: “The purpose of the policy is to provide affordable housing to meet the needs of small rural communities.

“The policy does not permit the affordable housing needs of local towns to be met by developing green field sites in small rural communities.”

She also said that the defendants, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Hastoe Housing Association and West Norfolk Council. should pay the council’s legal costs and refused them permission to appeal.

Speaking following the earlier hearing, parish council chairman John Dobson said the case was complex and had been continuing for the past two years.

Mr Dobson was the borough council’s leader when the rules allowing development on green field sites if there was a “local need” were drawn up.

But he said the move was made because the number of people buying holiday homes in the area had made houses in the villages too expensive for local people.

He said green field development should only be allowed to let people in the village who need housing build houses.

He added that the policy was not intended to allow people from the nearby town to be housed in the village.