Appeal dismissed over potential £42million claim against Northumberland County Council

An appeal over a potential multimillion-pound claim against Northumberland County Council has been dismissed.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 3:35 pm
The Morpeth Northern Bypass around the time of its opening
The Morpeth Northern Bypass around the time of its opening

The Court of Appeal decision in the case between Leech Homes Ltd and the local authority was issued on February 19, 2021, and follows an Upper Tribunal decision last year.

Cllr Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services, revealed at the Wednesday, February 24, meeting of the full council that had it been successful, the claim could have resulted in a potential £42million liability.

The case relates to compensation following a compulsory purchase of land at East Lane Farm, owned by Leech Homes Ltd, which was acquired by the council to enable the construction of the Morpeth Northern Bypass.

Leech Homes applied for a certificate of appropriate alternative development (CAAD) on the basis that it planned to build 135 homes on the site, but the council said it would not have been granted permission as it was in the green belt.

As the Court of Appeal judgement explained: 'On such an application, the localplanning authority must decide whether on a hypothetical application for planning permission (made on certain assumptions), planning permission would have been granted for appropriate alternative development; and if so, for what kind of development.

'In the present case, Leech Homes applied for a CAAD in respect of a residential development consisting of about 135 dwellings, together with associated infrastructure and landscaping.

'Northumberland County Council decided that no planning permission would have been granted for development. Leech Homes unsuccessfully challenged that decision in the Upper Tribunal.

'The crux of the decision was that the land in question was land to which green-belt policies applied. It is now common ground that if the council and the Upper Tribunal were correct in that conclusion, then its decision on the application for a CAAD was correct; but that if they were wrong in that conclusion, then planning permission would have been granted for residential development because the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing.'

The panel of Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Peter Jackson and Lord Justice Nugee agreed that the Upper Tribunal was correct and dismissed the appeal.

Construction on the £32million Morpeth Northern Bypass, a 3.8km link from a new junction on the A1 to the existing A197/B1337 Whorral Bank roundabout, started in May 2015 and the road opened to traffic in April 2017.

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