Council loses defence against developer’s legal bid

Horsham Village Signs SUS-151106-130528001
Horsham Village Signs SUS-151106-130528001

Horsham District Council (HDC) has lost its defence against a developer’s legal bid to quash Henfield’s neighbourhood plan.

Horsham District Council and Henfield Parish Council have expressed their disappointment at the decision of a High Court judge who has overturned the council’s decision to adopt the plan.

The plan, which sets out guidance in determining planning applications until 2035, was agreed to be ‘made’ as part of the council’s development plan in April.

The formal adoption followed a parish referendum, where 94.3 per cent of the 1,533 residents who voted, pledged their support for the neighbourhood plan.

However, housing developers, Stonegate Homes Ltd and Littleworth Properties Ltd, applied for a judicial review to challenge the lawfulness of the council’s decision to adopt the plan. They were said to be aggrieved because their site at Sandgate Nurseries wasn’t identified in the plan for development as it is situated to the west of the village which the local community believe would cause significant traffic disruption if it were developed.

Leader of the Council, Ray Dawe said: “It is very regrettable that the High Court has quashed the entire neighbourhood plan for Henfield. The council has fully embraced localism and therefore we have whole-heartedly supported all our communities in formulating their neighbourhood plans.

“The vast majority of people in Henfield took part in the process of developing the plan and made their feelings known about where development should and shouldn’t take place. The plan was unanimously agreed by all district council members.

“To have an entire plan quashed as a result of one developer’s determination to build on one site in the village is extremely disappointing.

“However as the matters raised by the judge are reasonably straightforward to address, we are able to continue to work with Henfield Parish Council so that we can get the Henfield Neighbourhood Plan in place as swiftly as possible.”

”We will also review what other measures may need to be put in place to ensure that the chances of such circumstances occurring against other neighbourhood plans are minimised.”

The housing developers challenged three procedural irregularities in the making of the plan.

The plan had been examined by an independent and qualified neighbourhood plan examiner, whose role was to test whether the plan met the necessary legal requirements before the referendum took place. The examiner did not raise any concerns with the plan. Horsham District Council accepted the examiner’s findings, and so proceeded to referendum.

However, the judge subsequently found that there was insufficient information to show how the land at Sandgate Nurseries had been addressed in the preparation of the plan and that more detail was needed on how built-up area boundaries had been considered.

Ray Osgood, Chairman of the Henfield Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said: “We are naturally very disappointed with the Judge’s decision which we feel totally disregards the views of the local community and the materiality of the referendum in the neighbourhood plan process.

“A neighbourhood plan that fully satisfies developers has the potential to be rejected at referendum by the community. It is over three years ago that Henfield started preparing its neighbourhood plan and to have it quashed after it has been through consultation, examination and referendum; after the huge amount of work done by the volunteers involved, as well as the wider community, is very disappointing.

“At its meeting on November 1, Henfield Parish Council will consider how to proceed”.

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