Legal storm clears to allow Neighbourhood Plan referendum

The referendum on Tattenhall's Neighbourhood Plan will take place as planned on Thursday 24 October after a compromise was agreed between the council and a group of house builders calling for a judicial review.

Agreement was reached on Wednesday with Barratt Homes and Wainhomes to withdraw their application for an interim injunction against Cheshire West & Chester Council and chief executive, Steve Robinson, which would have obliged both to suspend the ballot.

Taylor Wimpey withdrew its objections on Friday 11 October and will not seek a judicial review. A spokesman for Taylor Wimpey said: "Whilst Taylor Wimpey holds an active interest in a Tattenhall site we are not part of the group which are seeking a judicial review on the referendum for the Draft Tattenhall Neighbourhood Plan. Taylor Wimpey fully supports the Government's localist policy and we support the right of Local Authorities and local communities to develop local plans. Local communities and local people are at the forefront of our business and we will continue to engage constructively with them throughout the planning process."

The local authority agreed not to oppose a High Court order requiring the council not to adopt the neighbourhood plan, which would limit the number of new units in a new residential development to 30, until judicial review proceedings are finally determined by the High Court – or until the court orders otherwise.

An urgent hearing had been scheduled for Friday at the High Court, Manchester, before His Honour Judge Pelling QC.

Notice of the referendum was published on 12 September and 60 of the 120 postal votes have already been returned.

Barratt Homes and Wainhomes are seeking judicial review on the decision of the CWAC executive, on 4 September, to agree the Draft Tattenhall Neighbourhood Plan.

The claimants assert that the plan is flawed on a number of technical grounds and question the impartiality of the Independent Examiner Mr Nigel McGurk. They maintain that at the time of the examination, Mr McGurk was a non-executive director of Himor (Land) Ltd., part of the Himor Group – a strategic land company promoting a 26-acre urban extension at Hoole Gate, Chester. Himor strongly rejects there was any bias in the process in its favour.

Hoole Gate, the claimants argue, is one of a number of such extensions being promoted through the emerging Local Plan including competing sites being promoted by claimants.

But the authority has every confidence in its choice of Independent Examiner totally rejecting claims of 'apparent bias'.

It totally rejects the suggestion that the Examiner could have been biased with regard to Tattenhall, simply because he was a non-executive director of a company involved in a unrelated proposal at Chester and will resist the judicial review challenge.

The Tattenhall Neighbourhood Plan provides a framework for sustainable development for a village which has attracted numerous development applications from housebuilders and takes precedence over the Local Plan on non-strategic issues.

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UPDATE: Taylor Wimpey has withdrawn its objections and will not seek a judicial review.

By Ed

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