A key section of Forest Heath District Council’s Core Strategy, approved last year, has been declared as legally flawed.
A High Court judge has quashed the housing policy part of the core strategy as it affects Newmarket after ruling there had been a failure to comply with European Commission rules on environmental assessment.
The judgment by Mr Justice Collins was a blow to the local planning authority which adopted the new housing strategy in May last year after a planning inspector found the Core Strategy was “sound”. The council was refused permission to appeal.
Leading names in the racing world went to court to challenge the housing element of the strategy arguing that the level of new residential development proposed could destroy the unique, horse-friendly character of the Suffolk town.
The council said it was “understandably disappointed” with the ruling. In a statement it warned that the judgment would mean “more delay for development plans across the whole of Forest Heath. The council will need to reassess how it distributes its housing requirement, which remains at 10,100 until 2031, across the district.
"In Newmarket, options for growth will continue to recognise the international importance of the horse racing Industry and we will welcome the ongoing involvement of the racing industry in that.
“The ruling was on a narrow technical point of European law. The processes undertaken by Forest Heath to deliver and test its Core Strategy were understood to be best practice and indeed, are the agreed common practice across all Suffolk authorities.
“We believed the work we had undertaken on environmental assessment was presented in the best possible and most accessible way. Indeed, an independent Government inspector had previously ruled that the Core Strategy is sound and a proper planning document for the District.
“How plans are prepared in the future will need to take account of both the judgment and also the emerging changes in the Coalition Government’s planning legislation and the future requirements of the Localism Bill, as to how best to engage communities in shaping their future growth.”
31 March 2011