The image of country dwellers up in arms at the prospect of housing developments is a powerful one. However, in one case, landowners intent on building 79 new homes on the edge of a West Sussex village have overcome objectors’ complaints that the site might be needed for the expansion of a local school.
Planning consent for the development had been granted by a government inspector despite an earlier refusal by the local authority. He found that the proposals would represent a significant encroachment into the countryside but that the disadvantages were outweighed by the obvious social and economic benefits of the scheme.
In challenging that decision at the High Court, a group of objectors pointed out that the inspector had failed to mention in her decision the existence of an emerging neighbourhood plan which supported the school’s expansion onto the development site. The inspector had given no adequate reasons for rejecting local concerns that the school’s long-term viability would be threatened by the development.
In dismissing the objectors’ challenge, however, the Court rejected claims that the inspector had simply overlooked the neighbourhood plan and the position of the school in her decision. Her failure to mention those points arose in the context of unchallenged evidence that there were spare school places in the wider area and that there were no realistic current proposals to expand the school.