Villagers could go for judicial review over repeated county planning rebuff

A parish council will be meeting on Monday to consider whether it will go for a judicial review after a county planning committee went against its neighbourhood plan for the second time.

The site in Woore. Picture: Shropshire Council
The site in Woore. Picture: Shropshire Council

Planners at Shropshire Council decided to grant permission to a development of up to 10 self-build homes at Station Yard, Pipe Gate, in Woore, even after being told that the parish council was considering going for a costly judicial review.

Councillor Michael Cowey, who chairs Woore Parish Council said: "The parish council just feels that we have been let down as well as the residents being let down.

"We will be meeting on Monday with an item on the agenda. Both options, for a judicial review or stepping back will be on the table for our non-political council to vote for."

But feelings are running high in the parish after the county's planning committee decided to go against its own hard-fought neighbourhood plan. Residents had struggled for years to create the plan which was approved at a village referendum in May 2019, with 95 per cent support and approved by the county in July 2019.

Access to the site in Woore. Picture: Shropshire Council

Woore has grown by some 25 per cent in recent years and Councillor Cowley said the neighbourhood plan, which is a formal document recognised by Shropshire Council, was an attempt to get some local control of the situation.

The parish engaged a consultant after Woodcock Developments Limited gained permission for the same planning application in June 2022. It fired a pre-action protocol letter to Shropshire Council indicating a potential judicial review claim.

In response to a claim that the Northern Planning Committee had been misled at its June meeting, planning officials decided to re-run the decision on Wednesday. A small development had been approved for four houses on the site before another application was lodged for 10 homes. The total of 14 homes would be four more than the neighbourhood plan wants for the site.

Shropshire councillors were told by their officers that "This application was resolved to be approved by committee on the June 21 2022 subject to a Section 106 obligation to secure the affordable housing provision and long term, ownership, maintenance and perpetuity of the open space.

"The council solicitor has been working with the applicant's solicitor to finalise this agreement as soon as possible. However, it has taken slightly longer than anticipated due to issues surrounding the estate of the applicant's father, although it is expected that this will be resolved shortly.

"During this time the Council has received a pre-action protocol letter on behalf of Woore Parish Council indicating a potential judicial review claim. This alleges that the committee were misled with regards to the Woore Neighbourhood Plan."

Planners put the issue to the committee again, with the recommendation that the members reiterated that they wanted to go against the Woore Neighbourhood Plan.

"The Parish Council has not altered its view on the application and officers consider for the avoidance of doubt that members consider the development in view of policy HOU1 of the Woore Neighbourhood Plan," said council planners.

"Although the Woore Neighbourhood Plan is the most recent adopted set of policies the development plan should be read as a whole and in context with the whole suite of policies," they added in their report to councillors.

Councillor Vince Hunt said: "When it was discussed in June we gave due regard to the local plan. It is a brownfield site, it is scrappy and would be considered an excellent site."

And Councillor Mark Jones said he would be "voting the same way again."

The committee voted unanimously to approve the plan and throw the ball back into the parish council's court.

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