Three major housing schemes setting precedents for house building in the UK could be reconsidered after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles admitted that his rejection of 2,000 homes on the outskirts of Winchester was unlawful.
Eric Pickles last week signed a consent order quashing his decision to block plans by developer CALA Homes to build 2,000 houses at Barton Farm on the edge of Winchester [see earlier story]
The secretary of state decided not to defend his decision in court and accepted that he "erred in law" in failing to give adequate reasons when considering how Winchester City Council's emerging core strategy impacted on his decision.
The outcome is a victory for the house builder, whose fight to build on the greenfield site started a separate long-running legal challenge against the government's plan to abolish regional strategies.
Pickles rejected the scheme last September on the grounds that granting approval would be likely to undermine local plan-making. This was despite the Planning Inspectorae recommending the plan's approval.
The Communities Secretary is also being taken to court on similar grounds over his dismissal of two other major housing developments.
Ian Ginbey, head of planning at law firm Clyde & Co, which acts for CALA, said: "In light of the secretary of state's capitulation in respect of CALA's challenge, it remains to be seen whether he continues to invoke 'prematurity' in the context of major housing schemes.
"Should Pickles abandon this approach; the spate of decisions will merely stand as a short-lived experiment on his part in seeking to unsuccessfully find an appropriate balance between the government's localism and pro-growth agendas."
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