Update on Judicial Revie SGMGB

Update on SGMGB Judicial Review

Update on SGMGB Judicial Review from the SGMGB Management Committee

This blog updates you on the current status of our Judicial Review (JR) claim and to encourage you to do all you can to help us raise the funding (£100,000) we need to continue with our claim.

There are 11 defendants in total: the Secretary of State (on behalf of the Planning Inspectorate), the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the 9 Councils participating in the Places for Everyone (PfE) Plan.

We have now been informed that developers would like to join the JR claim as ‘Interested Parties’ (IPs).  Apparently, it is common for site promoters/developers to be IPs in local plan challenges.  Sadly, despite our request for them to act as a consortium (which would mean one common set of representations, rather than one per developer), the Judge considering our claim has approved a request by Wain Estates to join the claim as an IP.  We will keep you up to date with progress on the developer requests as we are not clear what value they will add given that, except for the Safeguarded Land at Timperley Wedge, none of our Grounds refer directly to specific Allocations.

We submitted our JR claim on 30th April and the 11 defendants responded with their ‘Grounds of Resistance’ by 24th May.  We then submitted a further very brief response (our ‘Reply’) to the Court on 30th May.  In essence, we have five strong Grounds for JR, which we have set out below and our ‘Reply’ confirmed that all those Grounds are arguable and that permission for a JR ought to be granted.  We also requested that the Court Hearing be expedited as the Plan is now adopted and is a material consideration in any planning application that comes forward.

Remember, we can only make a JR claim on the basis of legal or procedural errors, so it was not possible to include all our concerns within the court proceedings.  With this in mind, we are seeking alternative means of addressing some of the PfE issues we feel have been particularly inappropriately handled (including ecology, peat, carbon emissions, air pollution, best and most versatile agricultural land and the strategic environmental assessment).

Our five Grounds for JR are, therefore, summarised below:

  • Ground 1: failure to consult on the main modifications proposed following the cancellation of the West Midlands to Manchester leg of HS2 (our Ground covers issues such as the expectation of a further consultation, the required review of the growth and spatial options and legal errors such as the failure to follow and/or take into account the PPG and PINS Guidance).
  • Ground 2: error of law in interpretation of policy justifying Green Belt release in JPA3.2 Timperley Wedge, for which the allocation resulted in the release of around 100 hectares of Green Belt land.  A large area of this released land was described as “safeguarded” land, which is no longer to have the protection of a Green Belt designation but will have a separate bespoke policy protection.  The Inspectors’ conclusion that the “logical and pragmatic approach” to pre-emptively release land from the Green Belt is a clear misinterpretation of the NPPF policy on “exceptional circumstances”, in that they have interpreted “exceptional circumstances” as including “potential” circumstances which might “resolve themselves”, rather than actual forecast circumstances.
  • Ground 3: the Inspectors’ assessment of whether exceptional circumstances existed to justify the release of Green Belt land to meet the housing land requirements is unlawful for the following reasons: (a) the Inspectors misinterpreted or failed to have regard to paragraph 68 of the NPPF; (b) the Inspectors failed to take into account mandatory material considerations; and (c) the Inspectors failed to give adequate reasons on a principal controversial issue, causing substantial prejudice. 
  • Ground 4: the Inspectors committed an error of law in their approach to the withdrawal of Stockport from the Plan.  The Inspectors considered that was not a matter they were supposed to investigate and did not undertake the necessary assessment of, for example, the significant and disproportionate change in employment land supply requirements (particularly in relation to industrial/warehousing) following Stockport’s withdrawal to determine whether the PfE Plan had substantially the same effect as its predecessor (the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework).
  • Ground 5: Green Belt Additions (GBA) – unlawful restriction on the scope of exceptional circumstances (ultimately reducing the number of GBA sites from 49 to 19), drastically diminishing the ‘compensation’ for the substantial losses of Green Belt land within PfE.  By narrowing the scope of the exceptional circumstances test and introducing a requirement for a fundamental change or resolution of an anomalous boundary, the Inspectors erred in law. 

We are now awaiting the conclusions of the Judge assessing our case to determine whether some or all of these Grounds can go forward into a JR.  In the meantime, we have already accrued legal fees of around £30,000, so we need YOUR help to raise the funding to meet our immediate requirements.  Donations (large and small) would be very much appreciated, along with support for our auction (both in terms of providing Lots and bidding on those already highlighted on the auction site).  Other ideas for fundraising would also be welcomed.

This is hugely important to all our communities, so please spread the word, like and share our posts on social media, and help us save Greater Manchester’s Green Belt for future generations of users and beneficiaries.

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