High Court judge orders Norfolk planners to reconsider blueprint for thousands of new homes

A High Court judge has ordered that part of a controversial blueprint for 37,000 new homes in the Norwich area will have to go back out for consultation.

A question mark was placed over the future of the Joint Core Strategy last week after Mr Justice Ouseley upheld a challenge from campaigners that it had failed to explain what alternatives had been explored to plans for 10,000 homes to the north-east of Norwich.

While he said that part of the strategy was flawed, he had put off announcing what action would be taken until today's hearing at the Royal Administrative Court of Justice in London.

And today, he ordered that planners should reconsider the housing strategy for Broadland, which had earmarked areas such as Rackheath, Sprowston, Old Catton and Thorpe St Andrew for new homes.

The strategy, which was drawn up by the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) - made up of Norwich, South Norfolk and Broadland councils.

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It is supposed to serve as a blueprint for where homes and jobs will be created between now and 2026.

The judicial review had been sought by Salhouse campaigner Stephen Heard, from Snub (Stop Norwich Urbanisation).

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The effect of today's order by Mr Justice Ouseley is that the GNDP will have to go back to the draft plan stage of the document.

They will have to carry out a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) that will involve looking at possible alternatives to the existing housing plan, under which Broadland is earmarked for 9,000 homes, 7,000 within the so-called north east growth triangle (NEGT), including the controversial 4,000 home Rackheath eco-town.

The councils will have to carry out fresh consultation, and examine whether the amount of housing should be reduced, before resubmitting the draft for approval by government planning inspectors.

Mr Heard had, last week, succeeded in his challenge that the document had not complied with legal directives, in that the councils failed to properly explain how they had considered potential alternatives to the housing strategy mapped out in the strategy.

A second point, that the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) – a 'fundamental' part of the plan – or alternatives to it had not been environmentally assessed. failed.

The judge refused the councils' permission to appeal against his decision last week, ruling that an appeal would have no reasonable prospects of success.

However, it remains open to them to ask the Court of Appeal directly for permission.

Mr Justice Ouseley also ordered the councils to pay Mr Heard's legal costs on the ground on which he succeeded, to be assessed later by a costs judge if they cannot be agreed between the parties.

By a pre-existing agreement, the councils will have to pay a maximum of �30,000, while councils will have to pay their own legal bills on top of that - likely to run into tens of thousands of pounds.

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