Local Plan set to have its day in court


Sevenoaks District Council has been granted permission to bring a judicial review against the Planning Inspector’s decision to reject the draft Local Plan.

The High Court issued a notification on Tuesday 2 June 2020 granting permission for the review. The Honourable Mr Justice Swift concluded all grounds for the Council’s claim are arguable and permission for judicial review was granted, clearing the first hurdle of the process.

On 2 March 2020, the Planning Inspector wrote the final report on the examination of the Sevenoaks District Local Plan. It concluded the Plan was not legally compliant in respect of the Duty to Co-operate.

However, the Council strongly rejected this conclusion, which only surfaced after the first round of the Local Plan hearings in October, seven months after the Council had submitted the Plan and supporting evidence to the Inspector.

Within the Local Plan submission, there were more than 800 pages of evidence setting out how the Council had worked with its neighbours during the production of the Plan. The neighbouring councils and other organisations involved in the development of the Plan supported the Council’s evidence and approach on this matter.

In April, the Council began Judicial Review proceedings to overturn the Inspector’s decision.

Cllr Julia Thornton, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Development & Conservation, says: “This is great news as it means the High Court believes our position that the Planning Inspectorate may have a case to answer. This is an important first step to getting our Local Plan approved.

“We firmly believe we had followed the relevant guidance when we developed the plan. The evidence we provided to the Planning Inspector backs this up.

“In our opinion, the Planning Inspector has incorrectly interpreted key parts of the Local Plan requirements.

“Taking court action is not something we would take lightly, but we feel we have no choice.”

The High Court decision followed the news that the three MPs who represent the Sevenoaks District wrote to Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Local Government, on Monday (1 June). Laura Trott MP, Tom Tugendhat MP and Gareth Johnson MP urged the Minister to use his powers to reconsider the Planning Inspectorate’s reasons for rejecting the draft Local Plan.

Cllr Thornton, adds: “Our MPs recognise we have produced a robust Local Plan to provide the right type of developments in the right place, at the right time. They share our concerns about the handling of the Local Plan examination. We’re grateful for their support and we hope this moves the Plan forward.”