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Council defeats High Court challenge to masterplan and planning permissions

A Planning Court judge has dismissed three judicial review challenges to Newcastle City Council’s adoption of a masterplan for a major development and two subsequent grants of planning permission.

In Persimmon Homes (North East) Ltd v Newcastle City Council & Ors [2017] EWHC 688 (Admin) the claimant developer, Persimmon, sought to challenge:

  • The adoption by the defendant council of the "Callerton Master Plan and Design Code" ("The Masterplan") on 12 October 2016.
  • The council’s decision to grant planning permission to Bellway Homes, the first interested party, for the development of 600 dwellings on a site known as "East Middle Callerton".
  • Its decision on 11 November 2016 to grant Commercial Estates Group, the second interested party, planning permission to develop up to 550 dwellings, a primary school and retail facilities on a site known as "West Middle Callerton".

The development in West Newcastle across the Lower, Middle and Upper Callerton Neighbourhood Growth Areas is expected to deliver approximately 3,000 homes.

The grounds of the judicial review challenge were:

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  1. The Masterplan’s approach to the access road between West Middle Callerton and Upper Callerton did not comply with the requirements of the council’s Core Strategy when those requirements were properly interpreted.
  2. In approving the Masterplan the city council failed to have regard to a material consideration, namely the accepted need to reduce traffic congestion along Stamfordham Road through the provision of the access road.
  3. in common with Ground 2, when approving the applications for East Middle Callerton and West Middle Callerton the defendant council failed to have regard to a material consideration, namely the need to reduce congestion on Stamfordham Road, and avoided that consideration by concentrating instead on a different question, namely the application of the test from paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Mr Justice Dove said he was satisfied that the Masterplan provided that which policies CS3 and NN1 [contained in the Core Strategy] required.

“The Masterplan provides for a comprehensive, phased and coordinated approach to site development and sets out when and in relation to which phase the infrastructure necessary for the whole of the Neighbourhood Growth Area should be provided,” he explained.

“Both of these policies called for a Masterplan to be prepared, and preparing the Masterplan as a piece of informal planning policy was undoubtedly consistent with the requirements and expectations of both of those policies. It follows that I am unable to accept that there is any substance in the claimant's Ground 1.

In relation to Ground 2 Mr Justice Dove said the important point to keep in mind was that insofar as the need to reduce traffic congestion on the Stamfordham Road was accepted as a material consideration, it was one whose interests were to be addressed through the provision of the access road.

“At the outset, therefore, it is clear that the congestion on Stamfordham Road was addressed by the Masterplan through its inclusion of the access road as part of the infrastructure requirements for the Neighbourhood Growth Area,” the judge said.

Mr Justice Dove said he was unable to accept that in approving the Masterplan the city council failed to take account of the material consideration in relation to reducing traffic congestion on the Stamfordham Road.

“That consideration was locked into the provisions which were made in the Masterplan to secure the delivery of the access road, which was the infrastructure mechanism identified to address such congestion. I am unable to accept that by deploying the test under paragraph 32 of the Framework in order to identify the trigger points for the phase which required the access road the defendant ignored or overlooked the consideration of traffic congestion upon Stamfordham Road,” he found.

The judge added that by deploying paragraph 32 of the Framework to examine when the access road would be required the council was “taking a sensible and realistic approach (bearing in mind that the Neighbourhood Growth Area was going to be delivered through a sequence of planning applications) to when the point would be reached where applications could properly be refused on the basis of cumulative impact on the highway network”.

Mr Justice Dove also said he was unable to accept that there was any error of law in the consideration of the planning applications for East Middle Callerton and West Middle Callerton by the council.

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