West Norfolk Council defends planning record after court defeat

Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Councillors ENGANL00120130214162648
Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Councillors ENGANL00120130214162648
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Developers are already seeking to capitalise on a legal ruling that West Norfolk Council could not show it had adequate stocks of housing land, it has been claimed.

Council officials yesterday defended their handling of planning policies after a High Court judge dismissed their bid to overturn planning permission for a housing development in Clenchwarton.

But opponents say a new bid to build homes at the back of a West Winch pub shows a “free- for-all” to develop lands that might otherwise be deemed unsuitable for housing has already begun.

Last week, Mr Justice Dove endorsed a government planning inspector’s decision to give proposals for the old Fosters Sports Ground site on Main Road, Clenchwarton, the go-ahead.

In doing so, he said the inspector had been entitled to conclude that the council could not demonstrate it had the required minimum five-year supply of housing land.

Council officials were due to meet yesterday to consider the implications of the ruling.

But leader, Nick Daubney, said the position the borough now finds itself in is becoming increasingly common among councils both across Norfolk and the rest of the country.

He said: “We were confident that we had identified enough housing allocations to demonstrate we had a five-year land supply. However, the inspector has used different methodology to demonstrate that is not the case.

“Clearly this will have implications for development in the borough and we need to fully explore these and identify what needs to happen next in order for us to ensure we can demonstrate that we have a five-year land supply.

“This issue will be considered by the Local Development Task Group and Cabinet over the coming weeks.”

But critics have pointed to documents submitted as part of a new proposal for 17 homes at the back of the Winch pub in West Winch as evidence that the effects of the court’s decision are already being felt.

Applicants Basin Topko claim that, because the council cannot show it has adequate lands available, its other planning policies “cannot be considered up-to-date”.

It continues: “The proposal should be considered with a presumption in favour of sustainable development.”

Borough council officers say that means applications are now set to be considered against national, rather than local, guidelines and that some schemes which may previously have been deemed unacceptable could now be permitted.

But West Winch parish council chairman Paul Foster said the applicants’ statements showed the “free-for-all” which council chiefs had warned against as it drew up its own development framework had now begun.

However, Mr Daubney pointed out the application had been lodged ahead of the High Court ruling.

He added: “As a local authority, we have a duty to follow government guidance. In doing so we are always wishing to take account of local opinion.

“With government policies requiring housing growth, whereas local public opinion often resists or tends not to favour growth, it leaves local councils treading a difficult path.”