Chichester District Council vows to defend Loxwood Neighbourhood Plan

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CHICHESTER District Council has confirmed it will defend the Loxwood Neighbourhood Plan, following a further legal challenge by developers.

The challenge made by Crownhall Estates has meant the referendum planned for Thursday, May 7, has been postponed, to allow the council time to address and consider the issues raised by the developers.

Chichester District Council’s (CDC) cabinet met today (Friday, April 24) to discuss the plan and gave it their full backing.

A CDC spokesman said: “It is now hoped the referendum will be held towards the end of June.

“Letters have been issued to all residents in Loxwood updating them of the situation.

“The district council has been supporting the Parish Council and the Loxwood Neighbourhood Steering Group to make sure their neighbourhood plan meets statutory requirements.”

Loxwood parish councillors and other villagers worked for three-and-a-half years developing the plan which they hope will shape the future of their parish. Vice-chairman of Loxwood Parish Council, Chris Agar, said the developers were ‘riding roughshod over localism’.

Mr Agar said of today’s decision: “This development is a great disappointment to Loxwood Parish Council, but we have no option but to accept that CDC need to review their procedures to prevent any further challenges.”

Following the first referendum, Crownhall Estates challenged the district council’s procedures in respect of strategic environmental assessment.

The district council accepted that errors had been made and agreed to repeat the referendum on May 7.

The same developer has now submitted a further application for judicial review of the district council’s procedures and the content of the neighbourhood plan.

“We would like to apologise to all of the residents in Loxwood for this delay and the problems that we have experienced,” said Diane Shepherd, chief executive officer at Chichester District Council.

“We are extremely disappointed that we’ve had to postpone the date of the referendum, but it was important that we reviewed the procedural issues raised by the developer before going ahead. We believe that the plan is legally compliant and we intend to defend the challenge.

“The parish council and steering group from Loxwood have worked really hard on the Neighbourhood Plan, which aims to guide the future growth and development of the parish.

“This will be a significant consideration in the determination of planning applications and appeals and provides the community with an opportunity to influence the outcome of development proposals.

“I want to give the residents of Loxwood my reassurance that we are dealing as quickly as we can with the challenge and will make sure that another date is set for the referendum very soon.”

The cabinet agreed with the officer’s recommendations, which included:

That cabinet approves the Loxwood Neighbourhood Plan examiner’s recommendation to proceed to referendum subject to modifications.

That cabinet approves the design statement and agrees to publish it with the examiner’s report.

Based upon legal advice received so far, cabinet agrees to defend the claim and authorises expenditure up to £30,000. When it is known whether the Judicial Review will proceed, a further report detailing likely costs is to be submitted.

Residents are reminded this does not affect the district and parliamentary elections taking place on May 7 and they should cast their votes in the normal way.