Development plans for Uppingham that have already won the resounding backing of local people were under challenge yesterday at London’s High Court.
Bourne-based developers Larkfleet Homes has asked one of the country’s leading judges, Mr Justice Andrew Collins, to quash Rutland County Council’s decision to put the Uppingham Neighbourhood Development Plan to a referendum.
The firm says the matter should never have been put to the vote. But lawyers for the council say it is an “extremely technical” challenge brought by an aggrieved developer seeking to promote its own site.
The land, off Ayston Road, is not allocated for housing in the neighbourhood plan.
The document was drawn up by Uppingham Town Council, after months of consultation, under the Localism Act 2011. It was approved by the county council, which then put the document to a public referendum.
In written arguments to the court, the county council’s lawyer Martin Carter said: “The claim is, in effect, a commercial objection seeking on unmeritorious and technical grounds to disrupt the community neighbourhood planning process which has now received the support of 92 per cent of those voting through the democratic process of a referendum.”
The neighbourhood plan, which supports the construction of 170 new homes in Uppingham in the period up to 2026, was put to a vote in July. With a 25.9 per cent turnout, 92 per cent of voters backed the plan.
But Charles Banner, representing Larkfleet, said the county council had exceeded its powers in putting it forward to referendum and failed to comply with its obligations under the European Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive.
He said it failed to consider fully the significant environmental effects of the neighbourhood plan could have, both negative and positive.
When the legal argument ends the judge is expected to reserve his judgment and give a decision in writing at a later date.
Last week, more than 200 people attended a public meeting held at Uppingham School to object to Larkfleet’s proposals to build 79 houses on a site in Ayston Road, Uppingham. The proposals are counter to the Neighbourhood Development Plan, which allocated three sites for development in Uppingham - and were backed by the referendum - but did not include the Ayston Road site.
Neighbourhood Development Plans were introduced by the Government to allow local communities to shape their environment, and involve small local areas, usually an individual parish or group of parishes.
They guide the future development and growth of an area. They may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities, or allocation of key sites for specific kinds of development.
According to the Government’s www.gov.uk website, once formulated, the plan should be subject to examination and referendum and then form part of the county council’s local development plan.