Warrington local plan housing target invalid

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

A challenge to the adoption of Warrington's local plan core strategy has been upheld in the High Court, after a judge ruled that the council had not included substantial affordable housing need in the borough's housing figures.

The challenge was brought by Satnam Investments, the owner of around 160-acres of land at Houghton Green, which criticised the plan's housing provision policies and its main housing allocation.

Following the adoption of the local plan in July 2014, Satnam applied to the High Court in September to reverse the decision, after its Peel Hall Farm plot was removed as a strategic site within the plan in favour of housing development at Omega.

Satnam argued that the Peel Hall land should be included as a site for residential or mixed-use development and that the local plan did not appropriately address the area's affordable housing demand.

Mr Justice Stewart upheld Satnam's appeal in his ruling on 19 February, and said that the council and the planning inspector who approved the plan had not carried out a full and objective assessment of housing figures, alongside "substantial non-compliance" with strategic environment assessment requirements.

The plan's current housing target is 10,500 new homes, equivalent to 500 each year, between 2006 and 2027.

The housing target and references to the delivery of 1,100 homes at Omega now need to be revised in the plan following yesterday's ruling. The council said it would immediately begin the work necessary to ensure the housing elements of the plan are revised in line with the ruling and reinstated as soon as possible.

A statement from Warrington Council said: "All of the issues raised by Satnam had been previously considered by an independent inspector who fully supported the Council's position. The High Court judge has ruled in favour of the council on six of the nine issues that Satnam challenged on, but the council is extremely disappointed that the outcome has still resulted in the removal of elements of the housing policies from the local plan.

"The outcome was primarily due to changes to the planning legislation introduced by the Government right at the end of the process of preparing Warrington's local plan, immediately after the final local plan hearing session. These changes were introduced to simplify and speed up the plan making process in order to promote economic development and growth. The effect of these changes in Warrington is to penalise a borough which is achieving among the highest levels of new housing and employment development in the North West."

Colin Griffiths, planning director at Satnum Investments, said: "We are pleased that the court has agreed with the concerns that we raised throughout the core strategy process. We look forward to working with Warrington on the housing inspections and site allocation process over the next few months."

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