Developer’s Green Belt housing plan takes a knock-back after High Court challenge defeated

The South Berkhamsted Concept development plan would incorporate a huge swathe of the Green Belt
The South Berkhamsted Concept development plan would incorporate a huge swathe of the Green Belt

A developer that wants to annihilate a large chunk of Berkhamsted’s Green Belt has been defeated in the High Court.

Grand Union Investments had challenged Dacorum Borough Council’s core strategy development plan for 10,750 new homes to be built across the area between 2006 and 2031.

The scheme proposes that 1,180 homes are built in Berkhamsted alone in that period.

The core strategy was approved in a landslide vote at a full meeting of Dacorum Borough Council in September. Just four councillors voted against the adoption.

Grand Union Investments wants to build 800 new homes on a large area of Green Belt land in south Berkhamsted

The huge swathe of land is not allocated for development within the core strategy and includes fields near Ashlyns School, Thomas Coram School and the British Film Institute archive.

The developer had suggested the 800 homes should be built on top of the 1,180 in the core strategy.

Its representatives pointed to 2008 Office for National Statistics forecasts that 2,871 new homes would be needed in Berkhamsted between 2006 and 2031.

They said Dacorum Borough Council had breached the National Planning Policy Framework by releasing insufficient Green Belt land to meet housing demand.

But after a two-day hearing in the High Court, the Judge, Mr Justice Lindblom, found in favour of the authority.

Council leader and portfolio holder for planning and regeneration Andrew Williams said: “The core strategy was seven years in the making.

“I am delighted that we have successfully defended our plans against a well-resourced challenge from a developer whose site was not allocated for development.

“Had this challenge been successful, Dacorum would have lost its key tool for controlling new development in the public interest.

“The council can now continue the work of putting the strategy into action.

“This allows us, together with our communities, to stay in control of the responsible development of the borough.”

The judge said the council ‘lawfully adopted the core strategy, in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions governing the preparation of development plans document’.

Later this year the council will be asking people for feedback on draft masterplans for the allocations of new homes, together with other proposed development sites for the strategy.

Some of them have come under heavy criticism in the past. At the meeting the core strategy was adopted, a petition containing 1,800 signatures against it was handed to then-mayor, councillor Penny Hearn.

The petition was instigated by members of the West Hemel Action Group, made up of residents opposed to the strategy’s LA3 proposal which could see 900 homes built on Green Belt land between Chaulden and Pouchen End Lane.

Dacorum Borough Council will be progressing an early review of the core strategy, as required by the Planning Inspector, and consultation will follow in due course.

Those who would like to be kept up to date on future planning consultations and planning issues should email or call 01442 228000 and ask for Strategic Planning and Regeneration, to be added to the contact list.

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Next steps (autumn 2014):

– Public consultation on Local Allocations masterplans.

– Publication of our Site Allocations document for consultation. This document sets out how development will be allocated across the borough. It will include details about areas designated for different use and development, such as housing sites and shopping areas, and locations where development will be restricted, such as in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

– Progressing work on the early review of the Core Strategy, required by the Planning Inspector. This work will focus on the numbers of new homes required for the future and the role Green Belt sites could play in helping accommodate them. The early review is expected to be completed in 2017/18