The High Court has issued the first ever injunction to block a referendum on a Neighbourhood Plan from taking place as scheduled. Residents of Norton St Philip in Somerset were due to cast their votes on the Norton St Philip Neighbourhood Plan on October 17.
Residents of Norton St Philip in Somerset were due to cast their votes on the Norton St Philip Neighbourhood Plan on October 17 following Mendip District Council’s decision to accept the recommendations of an examiner and allow the plan to proceed to referendum.
But property developers, Lochailort Investments Limited sought an injunction to preclude the referendum from taking place until such time as they can judicially review that decision. Lochailort says the plan as currently drafted does not meet the conditions set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), particularly in relation to the designation of local green spaces (LGS) to be protected from future development.
Lochailort says neither the examiner nor the council considered whether the LGS designations were consistent with sustainable development in the area.
Granting an interim injunction, the Judge ruled that the developer has “seriously arguable” grounds for complaint about the plan in its current form.
Allowing the referendum to go ahead when Lochailort had an extant legal challenge would cause “cost, disruption and uncertainty”.
If Lochailort’s arguments that the plan is unlawful succeed, any referendum result would in any event be overturned and the Judge determined that it would cause greater confusion amongst voters if a referendum result were to be quashed than if it were to be postponed pending a legal challenge.
The Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan, prepared by Middlewich Parish Council, became just the third neighbourhood plan in the country to be rejected at the referendum stage yesterday (14 March 2019) following a recount.
1,085 residents voted against the plan whilst 1,063 voted in favour – a majority of just 22 votes. 3 ballot papers were rejected as being unmarked or wholly void for uncertainty. The turnout was 18.91% from an electorate of 11,376.
The first neighbourhood plan to be rejected at referendum was Swanwick Neighbourhood Plan in Derbyshire in October 2016. The second, last September, was Thornton Estate in Hull.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that Leeds City Council did not act unlawfully when it put a neighbourhood plan to a referendum after modifications had been made that partly differed from those recommended by the examiner.
Kebbell Developments had challenged the council’s decision to allow the Linton Neighbourhood Plan to proceed to a referendum. Kebbell had applied to the Council for planning permission to build 26 homes on a 4.5 hectares site called The Ridge but the site would be designated as unsuitable for development in the Neighbourhood Plan.
When the case first was considered in the High Court, Kerr J concluded that the Council had not dealt with the examiner’s recommendations unlawfully. Kebbell appealed to the Court of Appeal on this ground and also for failing to give sufficient reasons for its modifications.
Giving the lead judgment, Lindblom LJ said that the modification was one the council was able to make in exercising its statutory powers.
40. … The modification was comfortably within the ambit of the local planning authority’s statutory power to modify a neighbourhood plan before putting it to a referendum … The city council was entitled to conclude that the modification was effective both in securing compliance with the ‘basic conditions’ and in achieving internal consistency in the neighbourhood plan. There was no breach of the statutory procedure.
On the issue of reasons, Linblom LJ said
45. I do not accept that … the city council’s reason, succinct as they were, can be regarded as unclear or inadequate.