Members of No5 Chambers’ planning and environment set have secured victory in a statutory challenge for the University of Bristol. Ian Dove QC and Rowena Meager appeared for the university on 18th and 19th December 2012 before Her Honour Judge Alice Robinson (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) in an application under s 113 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 to challenge the legality of certain policies of North Somerset Council’s Core Strategy (CS).
The University of Bristol owns around 70 hectares of land that lies within the Bristol-Bath Green Belt. The land is to the south west of Bristol, near Long Ashton and falls within the Council’s administrative area.
North Somerset Council’s Core Strategy provided for 14,000 dwellings to be built in the 10 year period between 2016 and 2026. The University of Bristol objected and sought to increase the number of houses. It called for a review of Green Belt boundaries and the identification of an urban extension which would includes its 70 hectares, on which 1,000 houses could be built to fund future research and teaching. An Inspector conducted an independent examination of the Core Strategy and rejected the University’s objections.
Ian Dove QC and Rowena Meager, instructed by Veale Wasbrough Vizards, argued that the Inspector’s reasons for supporting the Council’s Core Strategy were flawed for three reasons:
- Rejection of the latest dRSS figures
- A failure to use current ONS household projections as required by PPS3
- Flaws in the homes to jobs ratio methodology to estimate housing requirement
In addition, Mr Dove QC alleged that the Inspector failed to give adequate or intelligible reasons for his conclusion that the Core Strategy was sound as far as the scale and distribution of housing development was concerned.
HHJ Robinson agreed on 14th February 2013, finding that while an Inspector may recommend the adoption of a plan, with or without modifications, the Inspector has an obligation to give reasons. She found that the Inspector failed to provide adequate reasons for his conclusion that the Core Strategy’s housing requirement figure made sufficient allowance for latent demand.
Therefore the adoption of Policy CS13 of the Core Strategy in reliance upon the Inspector’s recommendation was found to be unlawful. Furthermore, HHJ Robinson was not convinced from the reasons proffered by the Inspector that he had understood the University of Bristol’s case or the evidence.
All parties were invited by the High Court to provide further submissions given that the Inspector’s conclusions about the housing requirement and adoption of policy CS13 have been found to be unlawful, with the possibility that this could impact upon other policies. HHJ Robinson has reserved her decision in relation to the order to be made as a result of her conclusions.