Lawyers challenge Borough Local Plan decision

Shay Bottomley

shayb@baylismedia.co.uk
Lawyers challenge Borough Local Plan decision

The Borough Local Plan could go to court after campaigners raised sufficient funds to mount a legal challenge against its adoption.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has received a pre-action protocol letter on behalf of the Maidenhead Great Park group, according to an email from monitoring officer Emma Duncan to councillors.

A pre-action protocol letter can be issued where there is a dispute over a decision made by a public body, and can, but not always, lead to legal proceedings in a courtroom.

The BLP has been a contentious issue for almost a decade, with concerns raised over a potential 2,000 homes on Maidenhead Golf Course as well as the removal of greenbelt land from other sites such as land at Spencer’s Farm, Strande Park and in West Windsor.

In her email, the monitoring officer said: “The council was advised throughout the process by specialist Counsel and remains confident that due process has been followed in making the plan.”

She added that the BLP would have ‘full weight in the planning process’ for applications submitted.

According to Ms Duncan’s email, the adoption of the plan has been challenged on four grounds.

1. That the council’s adoption of the Local Plan was ultra vires

When the decision to adopt the BLP was made by full council on February 8, concerns were raised as to whether the ‘correct procedure’ had been followed by asking councillors to adopt the BLP without formal recommendation from cabinet.

At the meeting, Cllr John Baldwin (Lib Dem, Belmont) attempted to propose a motion to refer the BLP to cabinet for approval as a ‘pre-requisite’ before the plan could be brought back for adoption by council, although this was rejected by the monitoring officer who argued that only council could adopt the plan.

2. That the [Government-appointed planning] inspector failed to consider whether lost sporting provision would be provided elsewhere and/or the council proceeded pursuant to a material error of fact in respect of alternative sports provision

In an email seen by the Advertiser, a vote was held by members of Maidenhead Golf Club on January 11 to decide whether the club should release the money to build its own golf course in Fifield.

Although 60 per cent of members voted in favour, the motion was not carried as it did not reach the required 75 per cent threshold.

However, in a written response to a public question at the February 8 meeting, then-lead member for planning David Coppinger said: “[On January 11], it is understood that members of the golf club agreed to use the funds that would be released to purchase land for a replacement site.”

3. That the inspector gave inappropriate weight to the views of the Environment Agency in respect of site AL38 (Strande Park) and/or failed to give sufficient reasons for departing from the views of a statutory body

Land adjacent to Strande Park Mobile Home Park has been removed from the greenbelt, and a planning application has been submitted since adoption of the BLP.

In its consultation response available on https://consult.rbwm.gov.uk/, the Environment Agency raised concerns over the site which is located within Flood Zone 3.

“The Exception Test has not been passed as the development would not be safe for its lifetime, therefore we find policy AL38 to be unsound as it is not justified as it is not based on proportionate evidence and it is not consistent with national policy,” commented the EA.

“Therefore, the allocation should be removed.”

4. That the council made a material error in fact in determining that it had a five-year housing land supply (5YHLS) on plan adoption

According to Government guidance, a five-year land supply is ‘a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years’ worth of housing (and appropriate buffer) against a housing requirement set out in adopted strategic policies, or against a local housing need figure, using the standard method, as appropriate in accordance with paragraph 73 of the National Planning Policy Framework’.

Its purpose is to provide an indication of whether there are sufficient sites available to meet the housing requirement set out in adopted strategic policies for the next five years.

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