Judgment has been given today (13 October 2016) in R. (Stonegate Homes Limited and another) v. Horsham District Council and Henfield Parish Council [2016] EWHC 2512 (Admin) to quash the Henfield Neighbourhood Plan. Alex Ground, partner in the real estate team, acted for Stonegate Homes.

Neighbourhood development plans have become an integral part of the planning process and their policies are used in the determination of planning applications.

This landmark case marks the first time a High Court has quashed the decision to make a neighbourhood plan (a previous neighbourhood plan was quashed by consent). 

The court has found that the policies within the Henfield Neighbourhood Plan were not based on sound evidence. It is accepted that the level of detail of evidence for neighbourhood plans does not need to be as technical as that for local plans. However, the court has clearly found that qualitative evidence, which can be acceptable to support a policy, must be supported by research and not simply guessed.

In this case, concerns that some of the neighbourhood plan policies had not been based on evidence had been raised with both the Council and the examiner of the neighbourhood plan but had been ignored. Each body relied on someone else’s conclusions that the appropriate evidence was there, when in fact there was none. The law requires both the examiner and the Council to carry out a separate checking process that various requirements have been met deliberately.

Parish councils and other local bodies should not, however, be put off from bringing forward neighbourhood plans. This case has not said that only professionals’ technical evidence can meet the required standards needed to underpin a neighbourhood plan; simply that the neighbourhood plans cannot be run according entirely to a local agenda that has no evidential basis.

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