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South-East Housing Shortage Triggers High Court Row

The burning debate over how the south east of England’s acute need for more new homes is to be met formed the background to a High Court dispute in which a giant insurance company challenged a local authority’s refusal to allocate its strategic land-holding for housing development.

Zurich Assurance Limited (Zurich) took action after Winchester City Council excluded the company’s land at Micheldever Station from its core strategy to build 12,500 new homes in its area over a 20-year period. The decision had had a dramatic impact on the value of Zurich’s holding.

The core strategy had been approved as ‘sound’ by a planning inspector following a lengthy public inquiry. However, Zurich argued that the entire adoption process was fatally flawed and applied to the Court for a quashing order under Section 113 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

However, in dismissing Zurich’s complaints, the Court rejected arguments that the inspector had made a methodological error in failing to assess the area’s projected housing requirement against the background of the grave shortage of new homes affecting the whole of the south east.

The inspector was justified in finding that the Council had complied with its statutory duty to co-operate with other local authorities when formulating the strategy and there had been no requirement to carry out further environmental assessments before the strategy was adopted.