Housebuilder Cala Homes (South) Ltd has lost its High Court challenge against the Government’s claim that its intention to abolish the Regional Strategies should be considered by local planning authorities when ruling on planning applications.
This decision follows months of uncertainty. In August 2010, Cala Homes launched a legal challenge to the Government’s decision, and in November 2010 the High Court ruled that the abolition of the Regional Strategies was unlawful. Despite this ruling, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, and the Government’s chief planning officer wrote to all local planning authorities, informing them of the Government’s intention to still abolish the Regional Strategies in the Localism Bill, and that planning authorities should regard this as a material consideration when making planning decisions. This stance was subsequently legally challenged by Cala Homes and although the High Court granted a temporary stay on this government guidance, Mr Pickles contested the decision. A compromise was reached, with the Department for Communities and Local Government having to formally publicise the existence of Cala Homes’ second legal challenge.
The High Court has now rejected Cala Homes’ second legal challenge.
The Court ruled that Cala Homes’ challenge was “based on an incorrect understanding of what the Secretary of State has actually done.” It said that Mr Pickles had “not enjoined local planning authorities to assume that Regional Strategies have already been revoked”, but had in fact “advise(d) authorities, when making decisions to which such regional policy is relevant, to take into account the fact that the Government intends to promote, through legislation, a reform of the existing planning system in England, the effect of which would be to remove Regional Strategies as an element of the development plan.”
This ruling means that planners can take into account the Government’s intention to abolish the Regional Strategies. However, this may not be the end of the saga… Cala’s solicitors have said that they will be seeking permission to appeal the ruling at the Court of Appeal.