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Borough council wins Court of Appeal battle over Local Plan and objectively assessed need

The Court of Appeal has dismissed legal challenges brought by campaign groups over Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan Part 1 and the inspector's approach to unmet housing need.

The Court upheld the November 2018 ruling of Nathalie Lieven QC, sitting as a deputy High Court Judge, who rejected the challenge brought by CPRE Surrey and POWCampaign Limited.

Lord Justice Lindblom, with whom Lord Justice Patten and Sir Ernest Ryder agreed, said the Local Plan inspector’s relevant conclusions in his report were “logical, coherent and unassailable in a legal challenge”.

Waverley Council said: “This judgment confirms beyond any doubt that the Local Plan inspector’s inclusion of 50% of the unmet need from Woking borough in the Local Plan was lawful.”

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On claims the inspector should have assessed the objectively assessed need for both areas in more detail, Lord Justice Lindblom said: “The fatal weakness in such arguments is that they draw the court beyond the line dividing the role of the judge from the role of the planning decision-maker – territory where the court will not intrude.”

The Court of Appeal judge added that the inspector’s reasoning was “clear, adequate and intelligible. Nothing that ought to be there is left out. Nothing is obscure.”

Lord Justice Lindblom also stated that “no error of law” was to be found in the inspector’s conclusions, adding: “They were not irrational or deficient, they were cogent and complete. They confronted the matters that needed to be dealt with in a solid assessment of the degree to which the meeting of unmet housing need in Woking should be planned for in the Local Plan Part 1. The inspector’s assessment was not flawed by the absence of a definitive conclusion on the exact level of that need. He did not have to establish that with any greater precision than he did.” 

Cllr John Ward, Leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: “Local Plan Part 1 has been vindicated in the High Court and now the Court of Appeal. As POWCL and CPRE Surrey do not intend to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court, I hope we can now finally put to bed all the questioning of Local Plan Part 1 and move on.

“Having our Local Plan firmly in place is so important; it provides certainty and allows us to control future development, so we can shape our borough for future generations. Now we can get on with progressing Local Plan Part 2, which will provide more of the detail to support Local Plan Part 1, such as housing site allocations.”

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