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Cala Homes (South) Ltd -v- SoSCLG [2010] EWHC 2866

22nd November, 2010

Eric Pickles has been given little opportunity to recover from the decision in the Cala Homes case. Cala Homes have now launched a new legal challenge against the recent letter (10 November 2010) issued by the Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain.

Mr Justice Sales decision in the High Court on Wednesday 10th November probably didn’t come as too much of a shock to anyone except perhaps Mr Pickles himself. The Court overturned his decision to revoke Regional Spatial Strategies as being unlawful which has now left the planning fraternity in a difficult and complex position. As the government’s decision to overturn the RSS was revoked, the RSS have, in fact, always been with us and remained part of the Development Plan (and in most cases the most up to date part of that plan).

However, Mr Pickles sought to water down the effect of the ruling by declaring that whilst he respected the Courts decision “this ruling changes very little” and confirming that the proposed Localism Bill will include appropriate procedures for enabling him to lawfully revoke the RSS properly.

He also no doubt relies upon the governments stated commitment as far back as 27 May 2010 where in a letter to all local authorities he indicated a commitment by the executive to rapidly abolish RSS.

Following the High Court decision Mr Quartermain issued a letter to all Chief Planning Officers confirming that the RSS were now “re-established” as part of the Development Plan but advising them that they should still have regard to Mr Pickles letter of the 27 May in any decision they are currently taking.

On the face of it this may seem a fairly innocuous comment however, in reality, it throws the position into even more confusion. As a matter of law we now have the RSS as part of the Development Plan and regard therefore must be had to them as part of the planning decision process in line with the requirements of Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. However, the 10 November letter from Steve Quartermain is inviting the planning decision maker to give material weight to the fact that, at some time in the future, RSS may be revoked. At the moment, notwithstanding the intention of the Government to include provisions in the Localism Bill to enable this revocation to take place, there is no certainty at all when or if that Bill will become law and, more importantly, even if it does become law, whether or not the relevant powers to revoke RSS will be as proposed.

In light of this uncertainty its hardly surprising that Cala Homes , who have been forced to go through a lengthy and costly process to demonstrate that RSS should not have been revoked in the way that they were, are now seeking to bring back the certainty they achieved in the Court on the 10 November which was quickly “challenged” by the advice in the letter to Chief Planners.

It is understood that Cala Homes are seeking an injunction requiring that the 10 November letter be withdrawn.

For further information please speak to David Kerfoot on 01244 405538 or email him here.

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