West Norfolk Council loses High Court case over Clenchwarton housing plan

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

West Norfolk Council has lost a High Court challenge against the granting of planning permission for a housing development in Clenchwarton.

Earlier this year, the authority’s decision to reject the scheme for the Fosters sports ground site, on Main Road, was overturned on appeal.

A government inspector ruled in favour of Isle of Man-based developers Elm Park Holdings, because he felt the council could not show it had a five year supply of deliverable housing land.

But the authority argued in court that the planning inspector had made a mistake when calculating the housing need in the area.

It claimed that the inspector had wrongly decided that the housing need in the area was greater than the council had calculated.

He took this view on the basis that he considered the council had failed to take into account that many of the homes in the area were bought as second homes and that this effectively reduced the housing stock in the area.

But, dismissing the challenge at the High Court in London on Thursday, the judge, Mr Justice Dove, said the decision was one the inspector had been entitled to make.

He said that it was “the role” of planning inspectors to exercise judgment and take into account local demographic data when making decisions such as this one.

The council now faces the possible prospect of having to pay legal costs in respect of the case.

No decision has yet been taken on costs but normally those who lose have to pay.

Following the case, a council spokesman said: “We are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision and now need to carefully consider the implications of his judgement.”

She said it was likely to take several days for officials to consider the full implications of the decision.

But the ruling came at the end of a bad week for the council’s planning department after an inquiry into its proposals for how housing developments should be accommodated in the borough over the next decade was halted on its first day.

Inspector David Hopper said it was clear there was a “significant risk” the plan, which is meant to set out where around 6,500 homes should be accommodated in the borough between now and 2026, could not be found to be “sound” in its current form.

Officers have said they will provide further information to address the inspector’s concerns, but critics say they want answers about what went wrong.