Wealden Council at high risk from judicial review

Wealden District Council is at high risk from a judicial review which has been launched into the imposition of a 7km zone around the Ashdown Forest which severely limits new housing and business development.

The zone affects Uckfield and Crowborough whose Chambers of Commerce have united to fight the ban which they believe is stifling economic growth.

Representatives will be meeting a government minister in June to discuss their concerns. See our previous story: Uckfield and Crowborough Chambers to lobby planning minister.

The forest restriction zone forms part of the district council’s core development strategy which has been approved by a government-appointed inspector.

At the same time a landowners, including the Nevill Estate and the Birch Grove Estate, have launched the legal challenge.

Wealden District Council maintains a “risk register” which shows how the council could be affected by different factors.

This includes financial resources, loss of key staff, industrial action, severe weather, illness pandemic, animal disease, failure of a key supplier to provide a service and civil unrest or terrorism.

One vulnerability is termed “local development framework” which could be triggered by the council losing the judicial review of its core strategy.

The risks are judged on likelihood of the event taking place and the likely impact it would have.
Likelihood is judged from A (very high) B (high) to F (almost impossible). Impact is rated  from 1 to 4 where 1 is “show-stopper”, 2 Critical, 3 Marginal and 4 Negligible.

The risk rating over the judicial review is put at B1 – a high likelihood with the impact as “show-stopper”.

A Wealden council report states: “The passing as sound of the Local Development Framework Core Strategy at the Examination in Public and adoption by full council has reduced the risk of a vacuum in planning policy.

“However, the Ashdown Forest Economic Development Partnership has lodged a Judicial Review of the Core Strategy citing the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Wealden District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority as joint defendants.

“The council intends to contest the Judicial Review. There is a risk that the council may lose the Judicial Review and the Core Strategy is quashed in part or as a whole. This may require the council to renew evidence at significant cost and could lead to a vacuum in planning policy and developer-led speculative applications. There is also the possibility that if the Judicial Review finds significant headroom, that the northern area of the district could be required to find sites for significant increases in housing numbers.”

It could also lead to additional costs to re-do work, the loss of Section 106 money (a legal agreement which amounts to a roof tax) for infrastructure benefits and possible intervention by the government.

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