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High Court dismisses landowner challenge to Wealden Core Strategy

A planning inspector's reasons to approve Wealden District Council's Core Strategy based on a housing requirement figure of 9,440 were "rational and compelling", a High Court judge has found. 

In a ruling last week, a High Court judge rejected an attempt by a consortium of landowners to have the Core Strategy quashed. The plan, which was adopted by the Council in February last year, sets out the development strategy for Wealden to 2027.

The landowners claimed that the planning inspector who had examined the plan had erred when accepting the Council's contention that a higher housing requirement would risk environmental damage to Ashdown Forest arising from pollution. 

However, the judge said that the inspector's reasoning had been "rational and compelling" and that he had been entitled to conclude that the Council had produced sufficient evidence in relation to the harm to justify the figure.

"There is nothing in the guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework which indicates that the inspector proceeded in an illogical or irrational way, or in a way which conflicted with that guidance," the judge said.

The judge rejected a second claim that the Council had failed to comply with the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and with Environmental Assessment Regulations when investigating whether the housing need figure was justified.

The judge said he agreed with the inspector's findings that reasonable alternatives to the spatial strategy in the Core Strategy had been considered and that the evidence base submitted by the Council was "sufficiently clear". 

In response to a third claim the judge found that the Council had properly established that it had no obligation under Habitats Regulations to proceed to make a detailed "appropriate assessment" of the implications for Ashdown Forest of the adoption of the Core Strategy.

“I am delighted with the outcome of today’s hearing," said Wealden's cabinet member for planning and development Ann Newton in a statement. "This judgment confirms how open, transparent, and logical the Council has been in developing and adopting its Core Strategy."

“The findings of the judge have supported this in every way. They are testament to the dedication and professionalism of our officers and members in striving to find an appropriate balance between supporting housing and economic growth whilst also protecting Wealden’s high quality environment which our residents value so much. We will continue to support growth that is in compliance with our Local Plan and which meets our duties under the Habitats Regulations,” Newton said.

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