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First challenge under High Court affordable housing ruling

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Daventry DC has launched a legal challenge against an overturned planning decision in the wake of a recent High Court ruling that the government’s policy on affordable housing for small sites was unlawful.

The move is thought to be the first of its kind since last month’s ruling against the Department for Communities & Local Government. The department is appealing the judge’s ruling, which could also have implications for its starter homes policy.

Daventry leader Chris Millar (Con) told LGC the council had sought legal advice in the wake of the ruling and decided its local plan now carried more weight than the national guidance. He said the council had a “very strong case”.

Changes to national planning policy, introduced in November 2014, meant developers building on sites with fewer than five dwellings in rural areas – and 10 dwellings in urban areas – were exempt from section 106 agreements which are used to secure affordable housing as well as getting developers to contribute towards improving infrastructure in the area.

Following a challenge by West Berkshire Council and Reading BC, in July Justice David Holgate ruled the exemptions were “incompatible” with legislation that set out requirements for councils to adopt local plans, and branded the policy changes “unlawful”.

Daventry rejected a planning application to build five houses on land in the village of Barby in July 2014. The application was rejected in part due to the fact the project did not contain any affordable homes which was contrary to Daventry’s planning policies. Planning inspectors overturned that decision on appeal.

Cllr Millar said the council would not have “recklessly” applied for a judicial review unless he thought the authority had “good reason to believe we would win”.

“If we had very little chance [of winning] on a point of law we wouldn’t be challenging it,” he said.

The council has also launched a separate legal challenge in relation to another application that was overturned by inspectors.

In October 2014 the council refused an application for 121 homes in the village of Weedon only for the decision to be appealed and overturned in June this year, something Cllr Millar called a “poor decision”. He said the inspector believed the council’s policies were outdated but Cllr Millar said the policies were consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework so it should not matter how long they had been around.

“We think there are flaws in the inspectors’ decision,” he said.

Dates have not yet been set for the cases to be heard.

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