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SOUTH RIBBLE WINS OPEN SPACE POLICY CASE

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A developer today failed in a high court challenge to South Ribble DC's refusal to allow derelict land near the cen...
A developer today failed in a high court challenge to South Ribble DC's refusal to allow derelict land near the centre of Lostock, Lancashire, to be used for housing.

Lawyers for Wigan developer Arthur Lawrence Silcock argued the council's adoption of a public open space policy in the area's local plan fell outside its powers under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

David Manley, representing Mr Silcock, asked deputy high court Judge George Bartlett QC to quash the policy as it applied to two hectares of derelict former railway land at Lostock Hall, Lancashire.

Mr Manley said Mr Silcock's land was a sustainable housing site and the council did not have the financial resources to put its open space policy into practice.

But the judge upheld the council's policy, rejecting arguments it had acted unreasonably.

Lawyers for Mr Silcock complained to the council after it adopted the open space policy as part of the Local Plan in the Spring of 1995, said Mr Manley.

They argued the policy's objectives were unlikely to be achievable because of the council's limited resources.

After a public inquiry, a local plan inspector agreed with Mr Silcock that the open space policy would lead to 'a continuation of the current unsightly state of the land for some years'.

He said access difficulties affecting the site were 'not insuperable' and recommended that the land be allocated for housing.

But the inspector's recommendations were rejected by the council, which said the site was an essential urban green space and there was no need for more land to be allocated for housing in the area.

The council said it would compulsorarily acquire the land if necessary. It also pointed out that any housing development would harm an existing wildlife corridor.

Mr Manley said the council had failed to give adequate reasons for rejecting the inspector's recommendations.

But the judge noted that other inspector's reports had endorsed the council's open space policy. He ruled that the policy had been adequately explained and Mr Silcock had suffered no prejudice.

He further held that the council's reasoning on the issue of the wildlife corridor was not inadequate. The judge said that even if he had concluded that it was, he would have ruled that Mr Silcock had not suffered substantial prejudice.

He also rejected claims that the council should have held a further inquiry into Mr Silcock's objections.

'Whether a further inquiry was appropriate is a matter for the council's discretion.

'It can be said of almost any objection that it could be more fully canvassed if an inquiry were held. This issue does not seem to be one about which it could be said that it could only satisfactorily be addressed in that way.

'I am quite unable to say that the failure to hold an inquiry was unlawful. The application must therefore be refused.'

Mr Silcock was ordered to pay the£3,115 legal costs after a one-day hearing.

Strand News Service

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