A High Court judge has quashed planning consent for a 3,600 home urban expansion to the west of Stevenage and required Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to reconsider the application.
Planning permission was granted in 2009 to the West Stevenage Consortium (WSC), by the then Labour secretary of state John Denham, following a public inquiry in 2004.
However, the proposals were opposed by North Hertfordshire District Council and Hertfordshire County Council, who submitted a joint legal challenge.
The councils complained that the SoS had failed to impose conditions designed to reduce the carbon footprint of the development and to ensure there was temporary school accommodation while the scheme went ahead. The current Communities Secretary must now reconsider the proposal.
North Hertfordshire District Council portfolio holder for planning transport and enterprise Tom Brindley said: "We are very pleased with the decision. The application site is a huge open swathe of North Hertfordshire’s Green Belt and we have fought long and hard for more than 10 years to resist inappropriate development there.”
He added: "We strongly urge the secretary of state to draw a line under this saga by refusing planning permission. Councils and communities should be allowed to come up with sustainable plans for the future, sorting out their real housing needs as they are today, under a localism agenda."
The decision is another setback for Stevenage Borough Council’s plans for a series of urban extensions around the town.
John Gardner, executive member for environment and regeneration at Stevenage Borough Council, said, “While we deeply regret this decision, I am heartened by the fact the Judge did not consider the proposed development inappropriate in this location.
“We will now be calling on the Secretary of State to quickly resolve the two technicalities holding up this much-needed development in order to deliver on this Government's national agenda for economic growth.”
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “In the High Court, Mr Justice Ouseley quashed a planning decision made in 2009 by Ministers in the last Government to grant planning permission for 3,600 homes at Stevenage in the Hertfordshire Green Belt.
"We will not be seeking leave to appeal and are giving careful consideration to the implications of the judgment, which raises a number of highly technical issues.
"The planning applications, which were made in 2001, now fall to be redetermined.
"Ministers will consider the issues and whether a second public inquiry will be needed. Key considerations will include how the planning policy context has changed since the quashed decision was issued."
23 June 2011