Sevenoaks in legal challenge over local plan


By Kasia BanasAccount Director  

Sevenoaks District Council has decided to legally challenge the Inspector’s decision to find their local plan unsound.  

It looks like the battle over the local plan process in Sevenoaks is set to continue as the Council seeks leave to Judicially Review the decisions made by the Inspector. 

This latest move in the long running saga stems from the Inspector’s final report, the dispute is based on the inspector’s view that the council has failed in its Duty to Cooperate with its neighbouring councils. Whilst the examination was stopped before all hearings could take place, she also pointed out to several other areas of the plan that she would have been likely to require further evidence on.  

The council strongly disagrees with this assessment and points out that this issue should have been flagged by the Inspector earlier in the examination process. They have also voiced suspicions that being the first plan to be assessed under a new planning framework, failing to meet the Government’s housing figure was the real reason behind finding the plan unsound as it would potentially impact on subsequent Local Plans across the country 

Sevenoaks DC assures that they did not take this decision lightly and are only going forward with the Judicial Review because, based on the legal advice received, they believe they have a strong enough case to win. However, should they fail, they will be working against the clock to come up with a new plan before Secretary of State’s 2023 deadline. For now, they seem confident that even if it came to that, they would not need to start from scratch. They would ‘only’ need to address the duty to cooperate issue and resubmit some of the evidence that will be out of date by then. This is a rather optimistic view. They may well have to start anew; in which case they are running the risk of missing the deadline and facing intervention. And as we’ve seen in the case of South Oxfordshire, Mr Jenrick is not shy to take action with council which are dragging their feet.