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Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Wealden District Council & South Downs National Park Authority [2014] EWHC 406 (Admin)

DATE: 21 Feb 2014

This was a statutory challenge brought by a consortium of landowners against the Wealden District (incorporating part of the South Downs National Park) Core Strategy 2013. The Core Strategy had adopted an overall housing target of 9,440 homes rather than the 11,000 objectively assessed housing requirement, on the basis that further work would be required to assess whether any greater figure would be able to avoid any adverse impact on the Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area for birds, and that work had not been done. The Core Strategy also adopted a requirement for new development within 7km of the Ashdown Forest to provide Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (‘SANGS’). The Claimants argued that the adoption of the plan without undertaking an assessment of the impact of a higher housing figure on the Ashdown Forest and/or without assessing the reasonable alternatives to a 7km SANGS zone was contrary to the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive 2004/38/EC and the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 which implement the Directive.

Delivering a reserved judgment, Sales J held that the Council had been entitled to proceed to adopt the plan without undertaking any further assessment work. An application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal is pending.

David Elvin QC and Charles Banner appeared for Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP, instructed by King Wood Mallesons LLP.