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Basingstoke loses Core Strategy and SHLAA High Court claim

The High Court has ruled that Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council was wrong to exclude 809 hectares of land from its potential housing allocation sites in its emerging Core Strategy.

The judge ruled that the Council's refusal to include the land as a potential site for housing development in its Core Strategy was "irrational" and ordered the Council to reconsider the site's status.

Original landowner The Manydown Company claimed that the Council had prematurely classed the land as unavailable for development during the Local Development Framework preparation process, and therefore did not include it in its Core Strategy.

This had happened because the Council's Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) prematurely took the view that the site was "unavailable" for development, Manydown said. The judge ruled that it was a "fundamental misconception" on the part of the Council to agree with the decision to suspend the active promotion of the Manydown site, and to omit the land from consideration for development in the Core Strategy.

Manydown claimed that, by refusing to consider its decision not to promote the land for development, the Council fettered its own ability to properly exercise its planning functions.

“The quality of SHLAAs is an area where increased challenge risk is being seen," planning law expert Richard Ford of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said. "This case serves as a reminder for all local authorities to take care over the quality of the SHLAA which is produced, and to follow the [Department for Communities and Local Government] guidance carefully.”

Manydown entered into a sale and leaseback agreement with the Council in 1996. It sold the land to the Council for £10 million, with the intention that the Council would build a high quality, comprehensive development of housing, the judge said.

Under the agreement the Council holds the land on a 999 year lease after which point Manydown once again becomes the owner of the land. Manydown is entitled to receive half the proceeds of development that the Council makes on the land before 2050.  

"I do not accept that I should withhold relief for the unlawfulness I see in the decisions before the court," the judge concluded. "I think Mr Jones was right to submit that when the Council met on 15 December 2011, and when the Cabinet met on 23 January 2012, there was no rational basis for concluding that the Manydown land was not available for development." 

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