Mendip District Council's response to High Court Judgement on Local Plan
Mendip District Council has learnt that following Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court, some of the sites allocated for housing development in its Local Plan Part II will need to be reconsidered.
The judge determined that the focus of the Planning Inspector was erroneous, that the adopted Local Plan Part I in Mendip was 'misinterpreted' by the Planning Inspector, and that firm direction given to the District Council to identify 500+ houses in the north east of the District, was 'unlawful'.
As a result of the determination by the Planning Inspector, the judge has overturned five Local Plan sites. They consist of three sites on the outskirts of Midsomer Norton (earmarked for 455 dwellings), plus further allocations, of 27 and 28 homes respectively, for sites at Norton St. Philip and Beckington.
These five sites will now be removed from the Local Plan Part ll, as directed by the judge.
It's important to note that the rest of the Local Plan is sound and remains in force. And that having the Plan in place for the past year has meant the Council has managed to successfully defend appeals in a way that would not have otherwise been open.
Norton St. Philip Parish Council brought the statutory review against the District Council. The secretary of state and two major housing developers were also interested parties in the case.
Norton St Philip Parish Council argued the homes should be spread more widely across the Mendip region. Mr Justice Holgate upheld the Parish Council's challenge and awarded them costs, which Mendip will pay.
The judge stated Mendip District Council was 'influenced by the Inspector's misreading of the Local Plan Part l documentation.'
Commenting on the High Court decision, Leader of Mendip District Council, Cllr Ros Wyke, said:
"Mendip District Council had no realistic option but to follow the opinion of the Planning Inspector and the statutory Local Plan process. We had to do this in order to achieve an adopted Local Plan. Our hands were tied.
"A legal error was made in the direction given by that Inspector - who is appointed by central government - and it's Mendip Council that's been left to pick up the pieces, and the costs!
"To say we are extremely disappointed would be an understatement. This outcome is baffling, it's irrational and contradictory. It's loaded against local councils and challenges the Local Plan process."