VICTORY for a developer in a planning battle at Loxwood could mean the death knell for neighbourhood planning across the country.
This is the fear voiced by members of the Loxwood Society in a strongly worded statement as they wait for the result of a planning appeal by developers Crown Hall Estates and the outcome of two judicial reviews raised against their neighbourhood plan.
Democracy will be diminished if developers can exploit the legal system to achieve their objectives
“Democracy will be diminished if developers can exploit the legal system to achieve their objectives,” said the statement.
The people of Loxwood, it claimed, were being subjected to legal challenges by a ‘developer trying to overturn their rights to choose the sites for development in the village’.
The government introduced the neighbourhood plan (NP) enabling communities to decide where housing allocated to them should be built. In Loxwood volunteers formed an NP steering group in 2011 and consulted villagers.
Among other issues they gave their preferences for two sites for the 60 homes required to be built over the plan’s 15 year period.
After the NP was completed it went to Chichester District Council (CDC) for the final stages.
The last stage was a parish referendum held last July which resulted in an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote.
But Crown Hall Estates, which had applied for planning permission for a site not chosen by the NP and refused by CDC because it was not an allocated site, took out a judicial review against CDC’s decision to go to referendum.
“The main point of contention was a technical point and CDC settled out of court, but nevertheless the outcome was the referendum was quashed and this resulted in the need to rerun CDC’s consultation phase, a second examination and a second referendum.”
A second referendum was planned for May this year but the developer took out a second judicial review.
The eventual referendum on June 25 gave a 98 per cent ‘yes’ vote and CDC formally adopted the NP on July 25.
“In the meantime the developer appealed CDC’s refusal of planning permission,” said the society, “and the government inspector heard the case last month.”
The developer then raised a third judicial review.
“If they are successful, the likely outcome will be the judge will quash the referendum which will result in the entire NP being subject to a third rerun of the consultation, examination and referendum.
“This continuing battle has placed a heavy burden on the volunteers supporting the plan. CDC has also had to allocate £30,000 for a legal team.”
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