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Council wins High Court statutory review over decision by planning inspector to allow 475-home scheme

Worthing Borough Council has won a statutory review of a planning inspector’s decision to allow a developer’s appeal against refusal of outline planning permission for a 475-home mixed use development on a ‘green gap’ between Goring and Ferring.

In Worthing Borough Council v Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing And Communities & Anor [2022] EWHC 2044 (Admin) the council had applied, pursuant to section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for a statutory review of the inspector’s decision on 25 February 2022, allowing Persimmon Homes’ development on land north west of Goring Station.

Worthing submitted that the inspector erred in the following respects:

  1. In his treatment of the impact of the development on the gap between the settlements of Goring and Ferring, specifically in failing to provide adequate reasons in respect of those impacts or consequent assessment of the development against Policy SS5 of the emerging Local Plan ("eLP").
  2. In failing to take account of the conflict with Policies SS1 (Spatial Strategy) and SS4 (Countryside and Undeveloped Coast) of the eLP and/or failing to provide adequate reasons as to the assessment of the development against those policies or the weight to attribute to any conflict.
  3. In failing to take account of a material consideration, namely the reasons for the absence of a specific gap designation in the adopted development plan.
  4. In his treatment of the impacts of the development on the South Downs National Park, specifically in failing to comply with his duty in section 11A of the National Parks and Access to Countryside Act 1949 and/or paragraph 176 of the National Planning Policy Framework; and/or in failing to provide adequate reasons and/or reaching an irrational conclusion in respect of the impact of the development on the National Park.

Allowing the claim for statutory review on Grounds 2 and 4 only, Mrs Justice Lang quashed the decision of the inspector.

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Cllr Dr Beccy Cooper, Worthing’s Leader, said: “I am pleased to see that the voices of the community have been heard in this appeal. The decision justifies our actions in taking this appeal forward. We remain committed to protecting our green spaces, ensuring that the Climate Emergency is at the heart of all our decision making, alongside moving forward with a strong social housing offer on our brown field sites to ensure that all our Worthing residents can live, work and thrive in our town.”

Worthing said that the barrister for the council's planning officer's had argued that the decision of the Inspector had overridden its emerging Local Plan, its planning blueprint, which had been developed democratically with the people of Worthing and was committed to preserving many of the borough's green spaces and the integrity of the borough as a whole.

The council said: “The judge did not question the Local Plan's designation of Chatsmore as a Green Gap and ruled the inspector did not give adequate consideration to its policies to protect open spaces.

“The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whose inspector gave the plan the go-ahead earlier this year, will now pay the council's legal costs. In theory Persimmon could now go to the Appeal Court or ask for another public inquiry. However the council believes today's judgement gives it very strong grounds to fight any such case in the future.”

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