Plans for affordable homes on Northumberland coast can go-ahead after judicial review dismissed

A judicial review over contentious plans for new affordable homes on the Northumberland coast was dismissed earlier this year.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 6:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 6:08 pm
The site of the proposed homes on the south-western tip of North Sunderland. Picture from Google.

It means that the outline application, for 20 properties on land south-west of St Cuthbert’s Close, off Main Street, North Sunderland, can now go ahead, although a reserved matters bid will need to be submitted for the details.

At the May 2018 meeting of the North Northumberland Local Area Council, planning chairman Coun Trevor Thorne used his casting vote to approve the outline scheme.

The decision came on the day that the North Northumberland Coast Neighbourhood Plan passed referendum and the site lies outside the settlement boundary as defined in that plan.

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Planning officers had recommended approval, as the scheme was being put forward as a ‘rural exception site’ with the homes to be affordable in perpetuity.

Policy nine of the neighbourhood plan states that, for development outside the settlement boundary, particular support will be given to ‘proposals for exception sites of affordable housing provision where they do not have a negative impact on sensitive settlement edges’.

But in July that year, Northumberland County Council received a pre-action protocol letter, expressing the intention of challenging the decision for judicial review and raising issues such as the scale of the development, impact on the sensitive settlement edge, impact on the AONB, and affordable housing in relation to local need.

Therefore, the proposals were brought back to the October 2018 meeting of the local area council, with an updated report. Planning manager Liz Sinnamon told councillors that there is ‘a more robust case before you today’.

This time round, members approved the scheme by eight votes to four and the decision notice was then issued by Northumberland County Council (NCC) in June last year.

The following month, Stephen Williams issued a claim for judicial review, seeking the quashing of the planning permission. A judicial review deals with the process used to reach a decision, not the rights or wrongs of the decision itself.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has now learned that Judge Mark Raeside dismissed the claim at the time of the hearing in January this year, with a transcript of the decision published several months afterwards.

In his conclusion, he said: “I am satisfied that, while ground 1 and ground 3 were available to Mr Williams for argument, which he has, in the past and today, set out in an attractive and open way, on analysis, and with the assistance of the well-considered arguments of counsel for NCC, Simon Pickles, whose arguments as put I accept as correct, the view I have formed is that in this case I am not prepared to quash the decision.”

Ground one related to the scale of development, while ground three related to the proof of the local need for affordable housing; three other grounds were dropped before the hearing.

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