LOXWOOD villagers have suffered another major setback to their beleaguered neighbourhood plan after developers announced they are to mount yet another legal challenge.
Loxwood parish councillors and other villagers have worked for three-and-a-half years developing the plan which they hope will shape the future of their parish.
They were devastated last October, when Crownhill Estates made a challenge against Chichester District Council (CDC) for not carrying out a legally compliant screening appraisal. CDC agreed it had not followed the correct process, but the challenge came too late to stop the referendum on the plan taking place.
It meant several steps of the plan process had to be repeated, including the statutory consultation, the independent examination of the plan and another referendum.
Six months later and the plan is now set for another referendum on the day of the general election, May 7, but ten days ago the developers announced they had lodged a second challenge with the High Court.
Tomorrow (April 24) CDC’s Cabinet will meet to decide whether it will fight the challenge and whether to go ahead with the second referendum.
Vice-chairman of Loxwood Parish Council, Chris Agar told the Observer villagers were pinning their hopes on the district council deciding to fight the challenge.
And he said he believed the referendum would have to go ahead as election law dictated once the date was set and ballot paper distributed, it could not be cancelled.
“The developer is employing bullying tactics and using every vehicle to try and delay the neighbourhood plan, “ he said, “in the hope of possibly a new government being elected and the appeal into its refused plans being heard.”
Mr Agar said Loxwood was required to provide a minimum of 60 houses over the next decade and the neighbourhood plan had opted for two sites. The first for 17 houses was already under way and the second for 43 houses was to the south of an existing development at Loxwood Place Farm. They had rejected the site where Crownhill proposed to build 25 homes outside the village boundary which has been refused permission.
“It makes a farce of the whole process if developers can continue to male challenges when they feel like it. They are riding roughshod over localism.”