Court ruling says councils should not consider planned scrapping of regional strategies when drawing up local plans

Councils may be forced to reassess decisions to scrap plans for new homes after a court of appeal ruling today.

The ruling on the appeal over the issue of how much weight councils have to give to the government’s intention to scrap regional strategies, was brought by Cala Homes after it lost an earlier court case against the government in February.

The decision finds that councils should only make the government’s intention to scrap regional spatial strategies, which include housing targets, a material consideration in “extreme circumstances” when considering planning applications.

Cala technically lost the appeal because the judges found it wasn’t possible to say that the intention to revoke regional plans should never ever be a material consideration. Significantly, the ruling also finds that it would be unlawful for councils or planning inspectors to have the planned scrapping of regional strategies in mind when formulating local plans.

This may have an impact on the plans for at least 220,000 homes that have been scrapped by councils since the government confirmed it was scrapping regional plans.

Ian Ginbey, head of planning at Clyde & Co LLP, which has been acting for Cala, said: “This is an important decision which fully vindicates Cala’s action in challenging the government’s approach, and seeking to restore clarity to the planning system.”

“The Court of Appeal has emphasised that, at present, only in extreme circumstances can any significant weight be attached to the Government’s intention given.

“In addition, the Court has found that no regard shall be had to this intention in the development of emerging policy.

“Without these highly significant and welcome findings, many decision makers may have been led into error in attaching undue weight to the Government’s intention to revoke.”