MARTIN GRANT HOMES & TAYLOR WOODROW v WEALDEN D. C.
Voters will get their say, rules High Court Judge.
A High Court judge has overturned a council decision to deny voters a say on thousands of new homes.
The Judicial Review ruling by Mr Justice Collins squashes the district council's decision to move to a 'non-statutory' local plan. The six-year plan sets out the pattern of housing in Hailsham, including proposals for thousands of homes at Battle Road and Hellingly Hospital.
Wealden's non-statutory plan would have blocked the right of thousands of people to have a Public Inquiry into objections raised about the developments. Wealden claimed a non-statutory plan would save time and hundreds of thousands of pounds by side stepping the public inquiry to normally to be conducted by a Planning Inspector.
But councillors who who had been highly critical of Wealden's decision in the past, labelling it 'undemocratic' and 'dictatorial' have siad this high court judgement may mean the process ends up costing more and taking longer.
Town and district councillor Nick Ellwood, said, "Our group has consistently opposed a non-statutory plan. "Both Hailsham Town Council and Hellingly Parish Council supported our view that the rights of people to have a public inquiry were paramount.
Councillor Elwwod went on: "WE are delighted that the judge supports our views. "Wealden District Council is so obsessed with money that it is denying the rights of the citizens to democracy." "Now the High Courts have ruled in favour of the people." "I suspect that Wealden will try to appeal and we will oppose this."
Fellow Wealden Independent Group councillor Ian Haffenden said: "An inquiry was a democratic right." He added that the district council's proposals would mean that a handful of councillors would decide where the housing goes.
These views were supported by the Chairman of Hellingly Parish Council, David White, who welcomed the judges decision. He said: "All unpopular and inappropriate developments would now be properly scrutinised.
"The majority on the District Council have been reminded that they exercise power in the name of and on behalf of those who elected them and whom they are ultimately answerable. This has been a very good day for local democracy."
The application for Judicial Review was brought by developers Martin Grant Homes and Taylor Woodrow. Wealden District Council is now waiting for the full transcript of the decision before deciding whether to appeal.
Hailsham town councillor and Wealden Council Leader, Nigel Coltman, said: "He was extremely disappointed at this outcome." Fellow conservative councillor, Keith Whitehead, said: "We are bitterly disappointed at this outcome. We firmly believed the decision to pursue a non-statutory local plan was in the best of the community. "If the local plan was followed through to its conclusion, a public inquiry would have been required costing approximately £400,000."
The outcome of the local inquiry will not be known until the year 2008. The councillors voting through the non-statutory local plan believed that because the Local Development Framework would be replacing the local plan shortly afterward (about 3 years) to carry out their statutory function did not seem an efficient or cost effective route to pursue.
Foul play is not suspected.
(From an article in the Hailsham Gazette 9 March 2005)
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