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Planning Disputes at the High Court hit highest level for a decade

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Planning Disputes at the High Court hit highest level for a decade

Planning Disputes at the High Court hit highest level for a decade

The number of planning disputes being fought all the way to the High Court reached 215 in the last year, the highest level in a decade and up 42% in the last five years. 

This rise is driven in part by pressure to build new developments in areas which already have large populations. Government planning laws encourage building on brownfield sites, and as these are often in densely populated locations, local residents – and sometimes councils – are more likely to raise objections. Opposition groups are increasingly using social media to organise and communicate effectively to object to planning permission.

For example:

  • Local residents in Norfolk have used Facebook to organise a concerted campaign against a proposed new 300-home development.
  • A WhatsApp group including local residents, dog walkers and park users in Bath has been created to prevent a caravan park extending into a nearby park.
  • A social media campaign has been set up to stop a residential development in Nottingham as it threatens the Rock City music venue in Nottingham. The venue’s future has been threatened by potential noise complaints from the new residents.
  • A Twitter account against a third runway at Heathrow has over 1,000 followers and has been used to organise protests and campaigns against the development.

More planning disputes could be likely in the future as the government plans to build 300,000 more homes in the next year, mostly on brownfield sites. Some of the most high profile disputes have arisen in affluent urban areas where home owners look to build basements to gain more space. Neighbours often object due to the disturbance likely to be caused by the excavations. For example famous music stars Jimmy Page and Robbie Williams were locked in a feud over Williams’ plan to build a two story basement in Holland Park.

Marco Mauro, Associate in our Real Estate team says: “The record number of disputes reaching the High Court shows just how controversial building plans can be. Whether it is building on disused industrial land or digging basements underground, people are prepared to stop developments that they think will negatively impact their quality of life. It is now far easier for people online to organise concerted campaigns against developments as well as crowdfund legal action, all the way to the High Court if necessary. Whilst legitimate concerns should be heard, it is important that housing and infrastructure developments are allowed to help address the housing crisis.”

High profile objections to planning permission being granted include:

  • A new 400-house development at Newmarket - Lord Derby’s proposed development at the historic horse training centre in Newmarket was opposed and protested by many prominent horse racing trainers and racing groups. The High Court overruled the Government, and said that the development should be reconsidered for approval.
  • A 75-house development in Cornwall is being disputed by two residents after the local council approved the plan, citing the need for affordable housing. The residents are concerned about the project’s proximity to the Grade-II listed Nansloe Manor.
  • Colchester council had their appeal against a £70m out of town shopping centre dismissed, paving the way for building to begin. The council felt that the development would be bad for for local businesses in Colchester town centre.
  • A third runway at Heathrow - A coalition of local councils and campaign groups came together to challenge the Government’s decision to build a new runway at Heathrow. The High Court rejected their claim.

If you would like further information on this topic, please contact Marco Mauro, or you can call 0345 070 6000.