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Historic legal test of homes plan approved then rejected

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 17, 2014

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One of the country's biggest housebuilders has called on the courts to allow them to build a large development in the Cotswolds which critics say will destroy the Government's key policy on planning.

Developers MJ Gleeson have been granted leave to appeal their case to the Court of Appeal after they were first seemingly given planning permission for the development in north Wiltshire and then it was retracted just hours later.

The case, which is described by both sides as unprecedented in planning history, is seen as test of the Government's twin-track planning policy. The Government has opened up planning regulations giving a presumption in favour of building homes on green field sites, but at the same time giving local communities the chance to shape development with a counter-balance of a Neighbourhood Plan.

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The community in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, is the furthest advanced of any in the West at creating a Neighbourhood Plan, but the land earmarked by Gleeson for almost 200 homes on the edge of the town – and another site across town where almost 100 more homes are planned – are not part of the Neighbourhood Plan being worked on.

Ministers have backed the Neighbourhood Plan, and called in both appeals, saying the outcome has national significance.

But Gleeson's managing director Scott Chamberlin said the need for new homes should trump Neighbourhood Plans.

"It is now ten months since the inspector granted planning permission for these much needed new homes on a sustainable site in Malmesbury, and since then a Government inspector has asked Wiltshire Council to significantly increase the supply of new homes," he said.

"I am hopeful that the Court of Appeal will consider the matter very soon, to allow this development to proceed.

"There is no precedent for the Inspectorate to 'withdraw' a planning permission in this way so Gleeson asked the court to rule that the permission remained valid.

"At a hearing in the Administrative Court in Bristol last October the judge decided that in some circumstances the Secretary of State does have the power to withdraw a planning permission after it has been issued.

"This is contrary to what many professionals involved in the planning process believe and it means that planning permission may not be able to be taken at face value," he added.

A showdown at the Appeal Court is expected to take place within months, probably after the planning appeal on the second site for homes in Malmesbury in April.

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