Battle of Norton St Philip

In five weeks time it will be the 335th anniversary of the Battle of Norton St Philip. A “loyalist” detachment under Feversham was beaten back in poor order by “rebels” under the command of the Duke of Monmouth.

As if in anticipation, residents have today good cause to welcome another victory against an incursion from outside. This time the Neighbourhood Plan, prepared by the community, was challenged by a developer, Lochailort, a company based in the home counties. That led to the plan going for judicial review.

Lochailort is the developer of the Fortescue Fields scheme in the village. The company has sought over a number of years to extend that development. 

Mendip District Council tell us that the judicial review focused on two areas near the estate – Fortescue Fields South and West. Both were designated in the Neighbourhood Plan as local green spaces, and of special and particular importance, meaning they would not be appropriate to build on. Local green spaces have a high level of protection from development. 

The Neighbourhood Plan identified these plots because they formed part of a “vital green corridor” which was valued by locals for their beauty, tranquillity, views and their contribution to an understanding of the village’s historic evolution and maintaining its links to the countryside.

Obviously the developer was not happy. However the independent examiner of the plan was satisfied with it. Mendip District Council accepted the draft Neighbourhood Plan, and it should have now moved to a referendum. This is a legal requirement for any Neighbourhood Plan to show it has local support.

At which point the developer stepped in and launched a High Court challenge to the plan. This was in part to stop the referendum going ahead which MDC tell us is a first in the country.

The court held that the examiner had rationally decided the two sites were demonstrably spaces of special and particular importance. The court also found that she gave adequate and intelligible reasons for her conclusions. Mrs Justice Lang clarified that Neighbourhood Plans, prepared by the community, are subject to a different and separate test of scrutiny from the Local Plan Part II.

The judicial review challenge was dismissed on all grounds.  Mrs Justice Lang also ordered that Lochailort pay the Council’s legal costs. But needless to say that is not the end of the story.

Round one to the villagers supported by their District Council. But developers are motivated by other things. And they have deep pockets. So no surprise that they have launched an appeal to the Appeals Court.

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