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Judge throws out developers’ challenge to Neighbourhood Plan, 16 July 2017

The legality of the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan was challenged by three developers who wish to build houses on sites not included in the Neighbourhood Plan.

The challenge was brought on three grounds:

1) The Examiner of the Plan reached an irrational conclusion that the Plan complied with the basic condition of being in conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan 2002

2) The Examiner failed to provide reasons to dismiss a detailed note by the consortium of developers which attacked the SPA avoidance strategy which was used to support the approach to SANG in the Plan;

3) The Examiner failed to have consideration or provide any reasons to dismiss representations made by Wates which made criticisms of a consultant’s report (“The Amec report”).

After a two-day hearing on 15 and 16 June at the Royal Courts of Justice, the Judge has dismissed all three grounds put forward by Bewley Homes PLC, Wates Developments Ltd and Catesby Estates (Developments) Ltd and ordered that they pay the defendants’ costs.

Exceptionally, because Farnham Town played an essential part in the proceedings in the High Court, in explaining and clarifying the issues in dispute, the Judge agreed that the Town Council’s costs should also be paid.

Mrs Justice Lang DBE concluded that the original Neighbourhood Plan Examiner’s examination and report were both lawful and that Waverley Borough Council is entitled to rely on the Examiner’s recommendations in deciding that the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan met the basic conditions and should be put to referendum.

At the referendum, which was held on 4 May, 88% of the 11,391 people who voted, said they would like the community-led Neighbourhood Plan to be used by Waverley Borough Council in determining planning applications in the Farnham area. Since the referendum, adoption of the Plan has been on hold pending the Judge’s decision.

Commenting on the outcome of the Judicial Review, Councillor Carole Cockburn, Leader of Farnham Town Council says: “I couldn’t be more pleased. At last all the inspiration, hard work and dedication of so many residents, businesses and community groups has been rewarded and the Neighbourhood Plan can become part of the development plan and be used in determining planning applications in the Farnham area”

“I would like to thank Paul Wenham and the legal team at Waverley for their robust defence of their council’s position and the Town Council’s planning consultant and legal representative for their help and support.

“The Neighbourhood Plan identifies where Farnham’s future development will go. As soon as it is ‘made’ by Waverley Borough Council, the Plan will begin to shape the future of Farnham.”

The next stage of the process will be for Waverley Borough Council to adopt the Neighbourhood Plan and for it to become a material planning consideration to assess future planning applications in Farnham. See the final version of Farnham’s Neighbourhood Plan.

See the Approved Judgement between Bewley Homes PLC, Wates Developments Ltd and Catesby Estates (Developments) Ltd and Waverley Borough Council and Farnham Town Council and the Ruling on Costs.


Update: The Neighbourhood Plan was “made” adopted by Waverley Borough Council on 28 July 2017. This now forms part of the development plan.


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