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Secretary of State decision in Woodcock Holdings quashed (again)

DATE: 17 Jun 2016

The decision of the Secretary of State, dated 10th February 2016, to refuse planning permission for 120 dwellings at Sayer Common, West Sussex, has been quashed by the High Court.

The decision was made after the Secretary of State’s original decision to refuse permission, in September 2014, was quashed by Holgate J following a successful challenge by the developer, Woodcock Holdings Limited: see Woodcock Holdings Limited v SSCLG [2015] JPL 1151.

The most recent decision was notable for two main reasons.

First, the Secretary of State gave “substantial weight” to the development’s conflict with Policy C1 of the Mid-Sussex Local Pan (adopted in 2004), notwithstanding that the local planning authority, Mid Sussex District Council, did not have a five year housing land supply; Policy C1 only provided for development needs up to 2006; and the Secretary of State had not relied on any conflict with the policy in his original September 2014 decision.

The only explanation given for this in the decision letter was that the policy conflict, and the fact that Sayers Common was not allocated for housing, were seen “as important policy issues”

Second, the Secretary of State found that the development was “sustainable development” across the three dimensions of economic, social and environmental impact, but nevertheless that “the adverse impacts of the scheme would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies of the Framework taken as a whole”.

The Secretary of State has consented to judgment on the basis that, following the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Suffolk Coastal DC v Hopkins Homes [2016] EWCA Civ 168, inadequate reasons were given in the decision letter for the conclusion that substantial weight should be given to the conflict with Policy C1 when it was deemed to be out of date by paragraph 49 of the NPPF.

Christopher Boyle QC and Andrew Parkinson acted for the successful claimant, Woodcock Holdings Limited.