Developers state case for Hurstpierpoint planning in high court battle

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A row over proposals for 120 new homes in Sayers Common moved to London’s High Court, where a Government decision to reject the scheme is under attack.

Last Thursday, (February 26), Woodcock Holdings Ltd asked one of the country’s top judges, Mr Justice Holgate, to give the company another chance at securing planning permission to develop farmland just outside Sayers Common.

It claims that the country’s planning supremo, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, was wrong to refuse it permission last September, despite his own inspector recommending approval of the development and, by that point, no opposition from the local authority Mid Sussex District Council.

Woodcock is asking the judge to quash the decision and order Mr Pickles to reconsider the matter.

The judge will give his decision in writing at a later date.

Lawyers representing Woodcock argued that the Secretary of State wrongly took into account an emerging ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ for Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common up to 2031 as the ‘determining factor’ in his decision, when he should not have done so under national planning policy.

They claimed that, in the light of a finding that Mid Sussex District Council cannot demonstrate sufficient sites to meet housing demand for the next five years, he was wrong to give the emerging Neighbourhood Plan significant weight.

However, lawyers for the Government argued that it is a core planning principle in national policy that local people should be empowered to shape their surroundings, and that as a result the emerging Neighbourhood Plan was an important factor to take into account. They said that, in the draft plan, up to 292 houses were envisaged for Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common up to 2031, with the vast bulk of those at Hurstpierpoint. They added that granting planning permission for this development would see 120 new houses being built at Sayers Common, rather than around 40 as envisaged in the plan.