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Planning Court judge rejects legal challenge to grant of planning permission for 265-home scheme

A Planning Court judge has dismissed a judicial review challenge to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council’s grant of outline planning permission for the development of up to 265 dwellings and full planning permission for a new link road.

The claimant in Hewitt, R (on the application of) v Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council & Anor [2020] EWHC 3405 (Admin) was acting on behalf of an unincorporated association called Save Our Valleys.

Mr Hewitt challenged the decision of Oldham dated 5 December 2019 to grant hybrid planning permission for the housing development and other works by Russell Homes (UK) Limited (the Interested Party).

Save Our Valleys was formed in 2017 by local people to campaign against the Interested Party's development proposals. They believe that the development will destroy the unspoilt natural environment of Thornley Brook Valley and Ashbrook Valley (areas within the site) and cause other harm to the site and its environs.

The grant of permission followed a recommendation in favour of the development by the council's officers in their 2019 report, and a committee resolution in favour passed on 1 July 2019.

The claimant argued amongst other things that:

  • The 2019 report significantly misled the committee about the correct approach to [170] of the National Planning Policy Framework and the tilted balance in [11(d)(ii)];
  • By following the approach adopted in a 2019 report, members erred in law by failing to apply s 72(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 properly or all and/or by failing to give any weight (let alone any significant weight) to the less than substantial harm to the Lydgate Conservation Area in the planning balance. Further or alternatively, members failed to act consistently by following officers' advice that no harm would be caused to the Lydgate Conservation Area, contrary to the approach adopted in respect of a 2018 application, and/ or failed to provide adequate reasons for their decision.
  • Members failed to have regard to relevant development plan policies and/ or failed to have regard to a highly material consideration, by failing to consider whether or how the development would comply with Policy 18 of the DPD [Oldham development plan document] and/or [153] of the NPPF concerning the energy requirements of the development and/ or by failing to consider whether (and if so, how) the proposal would mitigate the impacts of climate change or contribute positively to the objective of moving to a low carbon economy.

Mr Justice Julian Knowles rejected all grounds of challenge.