Pickles – Court Says That Revocation of Housing Targets was Illegal

November 12, 2010 by  

Guardian, 10/11/10

The Government’s ambitious plans to let English councils decide where new housing is to be built were thrown into confusion last night after Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, lost a court battle over his decision to scrap the the previous administration’s regional targets.

Upon taking office in May Pickles wrote to local authorities to announce his intention to “rapidly abolish regional spatial strategies” and instructed councils to start devising their own housing targets. The result was that local authorities cancelled plans for 189,000 new homes.

Today courts ruled this was illegal with a judge accepting that primary legislation should have been introduced, giving MPs the opportunity to debate an issue crucial to future planning in England.

Shadow Communities Secretary, Caroline Flint said the court ruling “raises embarrassing questions about the way Eric Pickles ripped up plans for desperately needed new homes. The coalition’s housing policies are doing little to meet the aspirations of the hundreds of thousands of families who want to live in a decent home”.

Editor’s Comment

I hear that PINS has yet to issue guidance and that Planning Inspectors in the middle considering Public Examinations are not necessarily going to follow the letter issued by Steve Quartermain at the DCLG on behalf of the Government.

This is my analysis of the position in Rochford District vis a vis the decision of the Courts for Cala Homes and, presumably, Colonnade, who named RDC into their action. 

I would be really surprised if these two companies have spent many tens of thousands of pounds on such actions if they could be meekly turned aside by a letter from DCLG saying that a Bill will be published shortly. Think about it !!
Here is my view on the RDC position.
The amendment to the Core Strategy represents, we were previously told by RDC, was a real REDUCTION in the number of houses that were to be imposed under the RSS Housing Targets.
The authority for the change or rather REDUCTION by RDC was cited as the revocation of the RSS in the Statement sent to the Planning Inspector in July. 
So if the authority for the change is not lawful yet then so is the proposition for the changes which are now being consulted upon.
The publication of a Bill changes nothing, such changes can only lawful on Royal Assent and this will not be before the end of the Consultation (30 November 2010) or the beginning of the re-opening of the Public Examination which the Planning Inspector says will be in January 2011.
Technically it must be UNSOUND if considered by the Inspector before Royal Assent because conceivably in a democracy and the fragility of an untried Coalition the Bill may not be approved in the passage required through both the Commons and the Lords.

It will be interesting to read considered legal opinions as they are published.

First from the web blog run by planning lawyers Mills & Reeves

“The judgment is out in this case. Mr Justice Sales decided today that Cala won on all grounds of their challenge.  The result is that the revocation of RSSs by the Secretary of State on 6th July was unlawful.  It must follow that the decision is quashed, thus reviving RSSs.”

In practical terms therefore, until the abolition expected in the Localism Bill takes effect, RSSs are back again and form part of the development plan, relevant to planning decisions, unless there is a successful appeal by the Government.”

“If you’re interested in the reasoning, it follows a well-trodden path that statutory powers cannot be used to frustrate the purpose of the legislation – in this case, to have nationwide RSSs.  Also as RSSs are “plans or programmes” under the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, any alterations must follow the procedures for SEA.”

“Quite simple really.”

David Brock

and from the same site later………

“So in effect the position is intended to be as it was before Mr Pickes letter of 6 July – although presumably the weight to be attached to that particular consideration should not be quite as great now that it is clear RS cannot be dispensed with across the board by the Secretary of State but must await the deliberations of Parliament.”



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