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Success for Lewes District Council in Government legal challenge

The government has revised its housing delivery test result for Lewes District Council following a successful legal challenge by the local authority. 

The housing delivery test was introduced by government as a way of monitoring whether a local planning authority, in this case Lewes District Council, is building enough homes to meet their housing requirement. 

Lewes District Council took the unusual step of issuing High Court proceedings against the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government after the publication of its annual housing delivery test results in February (2019), which indicated that the council had only delivered 50% of the housing required under its adopted local plan over the previous three years. 

The consequence of delivery falling below 85% is a requirement to add a 20% buffer to a council’s five-year housing land supply.  This would have resulted in the council losing its five-year housing land supply and, as a consequence, its local plan would be treated as ‘out of date’ and irrelevant when determining planning applications. Neighbourhood plans over two years old would also effectively become redundant.

The case was listed for a final hearing at the High Court later this month. However, to the delight of councillors, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has now accepted the evidence put forward by Lewes District Council and a revised Housing Delivery Test result of 86% has been issued. 

Councillor Emily O’Brien, Cabinet Member for Planning at Lewes District Council, welcomed the government’s change of heart. 

Councillor O’Brien said:

“The decision to issue proceedings was not taken lightly, but they were necessary to safeguard our local plan. 

“The revised test result means that Lewes District Council can demonstrate we have an up-to-date local plan and that planning decisions can be made in accordance with our adopted local plan, which includes the policies in our adopted local neighbourhood plans.

“We are extremely relieved that the hard work of the district council and our local communities in the preparation of our local and neighbourhood plans has not been jeopardised.”

Published on 29 October 2019