In response to new evidence and sound legal advice, Aylesbury Vale District Council will no longer contest the legal challenge made by developers, Lightwood Strategic Ltd, to the Haddenham Neighbourhood Plan. The case was due to be heard in the High Court on Wednesday 9 March.
The Plan was approved in September 2015 and since then a developer has been pursuing a judicial review claiming mistakes were made its preparation. Although parish councils prepare neighbourhood plans, AVDC has to respond to, and fund, the often significant costs of any legal challenges.
Further evidence was submitted by the developer at the end of last week and AVDC consulted its barrister about the impact of that evidence and the prospects of the case being won. On the basis of that legal advice, AVDC has, regrettably, decided that the best interests of the council would be served if it ceases to contest this case. This will mean that the housing policies in the Haddenham Neighbourhood Plan will then be quashed and removed.
Councillor Carole Paternoster, Cabinet Member for Growth Strategy, commented: “It is very regrettable that we have to take this step but we have to act in the best interests of Aylesbury Vale overall. This decision should not be seen as a lessening of the authority’s support for neighbourhood plans generally, as the exact circumstances of this case are very specific to the Haddenham Neighbourhood Plan.
For example, in the case of the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan, AVDC successfully defended it against a legal challenge and we will defend all plans where the prospects of success are reasonable. However, AVDC must take its decisions on the basis of the best interests of all its residents.”
AVDC will continue to assist Haddenham Parish Council to renew its plan as soon as possible. It will also be reviewing what other measures may need to be put in place to ensure that the chances of such errors occurring again with other neighbourhood plans are minimised. Lightwood Strategic Ltd has also submitted a planning application for land at Haddenham which is subject to a Public Inquiry.