The three-year planning dispute between Cheshire East Council and land promoter Richborough Estates has reached a conclusion, with the Supreme Court handing down a judgment with which both sides are happy.
The argument concerned a development of 170 houses at Moorfields near Willaston, Crewe. In broad policy terms Cheshire East got the decision it wanted, but the ruling also stated that Richborough’s planning consent should stand.
Cheshire East said the ruling “will better protect residents from speculative housing developments that threaten the countryside”.
Richborough, for its part, issued a statement declaring “We have always believed that we would ultimately succeed, but it is a real shame that in the midst of a housing crisis we have had to spend nearly three years in litigation.”
Sean Hannaby, Cheshire East’s director of planning and sustainable development, said: “We may have lost the battle in Willaston but we have certainly won the war in terms of resisting unsustainable, speculative development schemes that impact on our countryside and our residents.
“This is a momentous victory for planners and planning authorities. It strengthens the position of all local planning authorities seeking to resist unsustainable development in inappropriate areas.”
The row centred on interpretation of paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework, relating to “presumption in favour” wherever a local authority cannot demonstrate five years’ housing supply, rendering other local policies out of date.
The Supreme Court judgement largely agreed with Cheshire East and its co-appellant Suffolk Coastal Council on this point, saying: “No one would naturally describe a recently approved green belt policy in a local plan as ‘out of date’, merely because the housing policies in another part of the plan fail to meet the NPPF objectives.”
Between October 2013 and April 2015, the Court of Administration dealt with seven cases relating to the policy, with “varying results,” said the court.
The Moorfields scheme was first rejected in April 2014, but was approved at appeal in August 2014. A High Court decision in February 2015 backed Cheshire East, only to have its verdict overturned by the Court of Appeal in December 2015.
In April 2016, Cheshire East launched a landmark “leave to appeal” bid, in an attempt to take the matter to the Supreme Court. This was approved in July. The Supreme Court heard the case over two days in February.