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High Court orders re-examination of North Somerset Core Strategy policies

A number of policies in North Somerset Council's Core Strategy are to be remitted to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) for re-examination (7-page / 131KB PDF), the High Court has ordered following its finding last month that adoption of the plan had been unlawful.12 Mar 2013

The High Court judge ordered that policies in the plan relating to the scale of new housing, the green belt, distribution of new housing, strategic gaps, Weston-Super-Mare, Weston Villages, Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead, service villages and infill villages, smaller settlements and countryside be remitted to PINS for re-examination.

The order follows a finding by the High Court last month that the Council's adoption of the Core Strategy had been unlawful because the inspector who had carried out the examination had failed to give adequate reasons for his conclusions on housing figures. This included a failure to explain his conclusion that the plan included sufficient allowance for latent demand.

The judge said that it would not be appropriate to restrict the examination to the question of whether policy CS13 on the scale of new housing made adequate provision for latent demand.  She said that any increase in the plan's total housing provision figure may result in the need for alterations to other policies. All the potentially affected policies therefore had to be remitted.  

The judge also issued a direction that the policies are treated as having not been recommended for adoption or adopted.

The judge dismissed an argument that the relevant policies should be quashed rather than remitted. She said that quashing the policies would "pre-determine further decisions of the Council and an Inspector about the Core Strategy which are matters of planning judgment for them and not the court".

She said that it was only at examination stage that any illegality in the adoption occurred and that the illegality could be remedied by going through the examination process again.

"If the policies were all quashed there would be a very considerable delay in the adoption of housing policies which in themselves are perfectly lawful simply because of the possibility they may need a consequential amendment that can be accommodated through the examination process," the judge said.

"That would leave the Council with an undesirable and unnecessary housing policy lacuna for a considerable period of time," she said. She also said even though remission would extend the process, she considered that the delays and expense to objectors and the Council would be less than if the process had to go back to the start.

The judge said that the remitted policies can still be accorded appropriate weight in any decision making and that housing can be brought forward through the development control process.

"There is nothing unlawful per se about the policies remitted other than CS13" and "any potential change in housing numbers will be an increase rather than a decrease," she said.

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