Cheshire East Council has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court to seek legal protection for local planning powers in an attempt to block housebuilders even when it cannot show the statutory five years’ land supply for new housing.
The aim is to prevent developers “riding roughshod over councils’ development policies,” the council said in a statement on Friday.
The council hopes to maintain the significance of Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans in determining applications for development even where the council cannot show it has the required five years’ deliverable housing land supply.
The council’s legal fight is the latest episode in a long-running legal dispute over developer Richborough Estates’s application to build 146 houses at Moorfields, in Willaston.
Cllr Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “We are delighted we have been granted leave to take this case to the Supreme Court.
“We thought about this decision to mount a legal challenge long and hard and it is not something we have done lightly. However, this matter is too important to be allowed to go unchallenged.
“It is clear to us that the Appeal Court ruling would have severely detrimental implications for all councils and their powers to protect their local communities from unplanned and unsustainable development.
“We are a council that puts its residents first and believe this action is necessary to protect local people, their communities and our rich and varied Cheshire East countryside. We do not want to be left vulnerable to developers who would be able to ride roughshod over locally-decided development policies.”
Cheshire East’s Supreme Court legal challenge is a joint action with Suffolk Coastal District Council, which was also affected by the same Court of Appeal ruling regarding the weight, scope and force attached to council planning policies.
The case is due to be heard by the Supreme Court in London between April and July 2017.
Dan Mitchell, managing partner of Barton Willmore, said: “This case involves a technical point in defining what ‘relevant planning policies for the supply of housing’ actually are, set in the context of when a local planning authority, like Cheshire East, does not have a robust five year land supply of deliverable housing sites. The Council claims that only a very narrow definition is right. The Court of Appeal determined that this was wrong and that relevant polices that relate to the supply of housing include policies around settlement boundaries, green gap policies and other land use protection policies that would, in effect, be deemed to be restrictive of new housing. Certain policies in Neighbourhood Plans could also be deemed to be out of date if Supreme Court challenge fails.
“However, this is not about developers riding rough-shot over Council development plans, as has been reported. Government policy is clear. It aims to significantly boost the supply of housing, creating the homes we need for now and future generations. Local Planning Authorities have a clear mandate to allocate sufficient land in their Local Plans to do this, something which Neighbourhood Plans can also contribute to by identifying development sites. It will be those Councils that do not release enough land for housing that could potentially be caught out.”