Update: Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP applied for permission to appeal the decision of Mr Justice Sales.
On 17th March 2014, the Judge refused permission to allow an appeal on grounds that there is “no real prospect of success” and “no other compelling reason to grant permission.”
Click below to see the decision:
Original article (Feb 2014):
Attempts by a group of local landowners to quash Wealden’s key planning strategy and allow the building of more houses across the District have been thrown out of court.
A group of landowners, known as the Ashdown Forest Economic Development partnership, challenged the Core Strategy at the High Court, claiming the housing target of 9,440 was too low and the Council was being overly cautious in its protection of the environment.
Mr Justice Sales dismissed all of the four grounds of challenge, saying their claims as “speculative” and “misconceived”. The Judge has ordered Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP to pay the defendants legal costs up to £35,000.
Councillor Ann Newton, responsible for planning and development, said:
This judgement confirms how open, transparent, and logical the Council has been in developing and adopting its Core Strategy. The findings of the Judge have supported this in every way. They are testament to the dedication and professionalism of our officers and members in striving to find an appropriate balance between supporting housing and economic growth whilst also protecting Wealden’s high quality environment which our residents value so much. We will continue to support growth that is in compliance with our Local Plan and which meets our duties under the Habitats Regulations.
The Judge agreed Wealden District Council had produced sufficient evidence to support the smaller housing target of 9,440. Originally 11,000 homes were to be built in Wealden, before the South East Plan was abolished by Eric Pickles, Minister for Communities and Local Government.
Mr Justice Sales, also dismissed claims that the Council had breached EU regulations by not considering alternatives to the 7km protection zone around the Ashdown Forest, as in his opinion the principled reasoning and evidence to justify the decision was clearly set out in the relevant environmental report.
The Judge heard evidence from both sides at a hearing which took place on 4 and 5 February. It had been anticipated that it would take months for an outcome to be announced. You can read the full judgement here, and see the previous article for more information.