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Extraordinary Full Council Meeting discusses High Court decision on Mendip's Local Plan

Mendip District Council held an Extraordinary Full Council to allow a formal briefing on the recent High Court Judgment, in respect of its Local Plan Part II (LPP2).

Mendip District Council held an Extraordinary Full Council to allow a formal briefing on the recent High Court Judgment, in respect of its Local Plan Part II (LPP2).
Following Judicial Review proceedings, some of the sites allocated for housing development in the Council's LPP2 will need to be reconsidered, members were told.

MDC logo white smallThe presentation paper was introduced by the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Development Management, Cllr Garfield Kennedy, assisted by planning and legal officers.

They explained the background leading to the court ruling, covered the revisions made to the LPP2, and discussed the implications of the judgment for policy and development management (for example what happens to planning applications on the deleted sites).

The full report can be viewed HERE.

At the High Court, the Judge determined that the focus of the Planning Inspector was erroneous, that the adopted Local Plan Part I in Mendip was 'misinterpreted' by the Planning Inspector, and that firm direction given to the District Council to identify 500+ houses in the north east of the District, was 'unlawful'.

As a result of the determination by the Planning Inspector, the Judge overturned five Local Plan sites. These five sites have now been removed from the LLP2, as directed by the Judge.

The sites are at three locations on the outskirts of Midsomer Norton (earmarked for 455 dwellings), and allocations, of 27 and 28 homes respectively, for sites at Norton St. Philip and Beckington.

The judgment does not apply retrospectively and does not impact on previous planning decisions. The rest of the Local Plan is sound and remains in force.  Having the Plan in place for the past year has meant the Council has managed to successfully defend appeals in a way that would not have otherwise been open.

Norton St. Philip Parish Council brought the statutory review against the District Council. The secretary of state (on behalf of the Planning Inspectorate) and two major housing developers were also interested parties in the case.

Norton St Philip Parish Council argued the homes should be spread more widely across the Mendip region. Mr Justice Holgate upheld the Parish Council's challenge and awarded them costs, which Mendip District Council will be responsible for paying.

The Judge stated Mendip District Council was 'influenced by the Inspector's misreading of the Local Plan Part l documentation.'

You can read the full report on the High Court judgement HERE.

Commenting on the High Court decision at the time, the Leader of Mendip District Council, Cllr Ros Wyke, said: "A legal error was made in the direction given by that Inspector - who is appointed by central government - and it's Mendip Council that's been left to pick up the pieces, and the costs.

"Mendip District Council had no realistic option but to follow the opinion of the Planning Inspector and the statutory Local Plan process. We had to do this in order to achieve an adopted Local Plan. Our hands were tied.

"Reflecting further on this judgement, it appears that local planning authorities are in a no-win situation. The guidance is that the Planning Inspector is the final arbiter, yet a Planning Judge can overrule a Planning Inspector."