Can the inspector’s decision to approve 137 homes off Foldgate Lane be challenged? Yes, but it is not easy.
Shropshire Council, parish councils or residents could launch a judicial review against the decision by the planning inspectorate. This must be lodged within six weeks of the appeal decision on 10 November. I think Shropshire Council should launch a judicial review.
Judicial reviews are a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, not the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached. That means that the inspector must have misinterpreted legislation or planning rules, acted in an unfair manner, or failed to consider important information for a judicial review to succeed. If these flaws are found, a high court judge can quash the appeal decision. In these cases, the appeal is usually reheard under a different inspector.
Sometimes, a judicial review doesn’t get as far as the high court. The first stage is a pre-action letter. The planning inspectorate has on many occasions immediately accepted defeat on receipt of the pre-action letter. In these cases, the letter has pointed out significant flaws in the planning process. But the developers often fight on in the high court independently of the inspectors.
Richborough is not going to accept defeat. It boasts that it has a 100% success rate in housing planning applications. It is likely to contest any judicial review through the courts whatever the planning inspectorate thinks.
Is there a case for a judicial review?
We won’t know the answer to this question without legal advice. I understand that Shropshire Council has been discussing whether to obtain this advice.
Ludford Parish Council, Ludlow Town Council and myself have written to Shropshire Council asking it to seek advice on a judicial review for this appeal decision.
I am not a lawyer. But my detailed analysis of the inspector’s report suggests that it is significantly flawed. I am adament that Shropshire Council should launch a legal challenge to this decision.
We need to protect the integrity of our local plan, SAMDev. We need to protect the planning policies that allow Ludlow to grow in an organised and sustainable way. If this appeal decision is allowed to stand, we will have free-for-all development – not just in Ludlow but across all of Shropshire.
What happens if there is no judicial review?
Richborough Estates was behind this appeal. It doesn’t develop sites. It gets planning permission and then sells the sites on to a developer. It works on a “no win, no fee” basis, carrying all the costs up until the land is sold to a developer. At that point it charges a fee.
This means that we do not know who the developer of this site will be.
Under the planning permission granted by the inspector Callum Parker, there are a lot of restrictions. Planning conditions limit the number of homes on the site to 137. The development must be carried out “substantially in accordance” with the Proposed Indicative Masterplan and the Landscape Masterplan. A S106 document, a legally binding agreement between Shropshire Council and Richborough, states that 25% of the dwellings must be affordable. Full permission (“reserved matters”) must be applied for within three years.
But beware. Now that Richborough has established that the site is a sustainable location for development in the eyes of the planning inspectorate, it is open for the developer to come back and get these conditions changed. That could mean, for example, more houses and less green space. It could mean fewer affordable homes if the developer argues that 25% affordability would make the development unviable. I’d hope that Shropshire Council would fight any changes but that could well lead to another appeal.
. Before the Foldgate Lane appeal, Richborough Estates lodged seven appeals for housing developments with the planning inspectorate, winning all of them. The sites were in Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire.