Will Cousins

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The High Court has today quashed the decision, granted by the Secretary of State following call-in, for 50 houses at Mitchelswood Farm, Allington Road, Newick. The Claimants were Baroness Cumberlege and her husband, Mr. Patrick Cumberlege, both residents of Newick.

The Judge John Howell QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge quashed the decision determining that the Secretary of State unlawfully failed to take into account his own decision in a separate appeal where he reached a different conclusion in relation to a policy, relevant to both cases, when determining the Newick appeal and failing to apply a necessary condition. Of wider relevance, the judge states: “It can only undermine public confidence in the operation of the development control system for there to be two decisions of the Secretary of State himself, issued from the same unit of his department on the same floor of the same building within 10 weeks of each other, reaching an apparently different conclusion on whether or not a development plan policy is up-to- date without any reference to, or sufficient explanation in the later one for, the difference”.

Will Cousins, representing DLA Delivery (the Appellants) commented: “Clearly it is disappointing that the decision has had to have been quashed, particularly in these circumstances where the oversight (failure to make reference to another appeal decision which was not yet in the public domain, so was not known to the appellant, the local planning authority or the Appeal Inspector) was not one that we or the Inspector could have steered the Secretary of State around.

Equally the delay in delivering much needed housing in the village will be a disappointment to many young families in Newick and those who would have been eligible for the affordable housing which makes up 40% of the development. The Appeal Inspector, Mr. Birkinshaw, provided the Secretary of State with a thorough, robust and well-reasoned conclusion in recommending the appeal should be allowed.  The Inspector’s findings in relation to the merits of the scheme are unaltered by this ruling and we are hopeful that a favourable decision will still follow when regard is had to the other appeal decision and when a suitable condition is added to prevent development, which was never intended in any case, on the very small part of the site affected by the Ashdown Forest exclusion zone, which was to be open space.”