Sewell Park planning row goes to Court of Appeal

The entrance to the proposed site of Sewell Park development

The entrance to the proposed site of Sewell Park development - Credit: Archant

A Court of Appeal judge has granted the district council permission to contest a judgement relating to a controversial proposed Green Belt housing scheme in St Albans.

Hunston Properties recently successfully challenged a planning inspector’s decision to dismiss its application to build Sewell Park, a development of 116 homes, new road access and a 72-bed care home to the rear of 112-156B Harpenden Road.

But St Albans district council (SADC) later announced it would seek the Court of Appeal’s permission to appeal against the order quashing the inspector’s decision.

A spokeswoman for SADC said on Thursday (10) that while the Court of Appeal judge has ordered the hearing to be expedited to be heard before Christmas, the council has not yet been notified of the date of the hearing.

An inspector had dismissed Hunston’s appeal against the council’s refusal to grant planning permission for Sewell Park.

The High Court hearing took place in Manchester in August with Judge Mark Pelling, in his September 5 judgement, quashing the inspector’s decision to dismiss Hunston’s appeal.

Hunston had challenged the inspector’s assessment of whether the planning application demonstrated the existence of “very special circumstances” necessary to warrant development in the Green Belt.

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The inspector’s conclusion was based on St Albans needing to meet a target of 360 homes per annum as stipulated in the recently revoked East of England Plan.

But Hunston successfully argued that by adopting the 360 figure, rather than a “need” figure of 688 new homes a year, the inspector misconstrued and misapplied parts of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which replaced the East of England Plan.

The judge’s decision prompted planning expert and former council senior planning officer David Lane, who is engaged by Hunston, to warn the judgement had major implications for other local authorities.

Mr Lane said that other councils throughout the country also basing their housing figures on the revoked legislation risked a similar outcome in court.

A spokeswoman for SADC said: “The grounds of appeal are that the High Court erred in law by wrongly interpreting paragraph 47 of the NPPF as requiring the housing requirement figure in calculation of a five year housing land supply to be the objectively assessed housing need figure without any potential reduction through achieving consistency with other parts of the NPPF.”