Members of No5 Chambers’ planning and environment set had secured victory in a statutory challenge for the University of Bristol against North Somerset Council on 14th February 2013. Today, 7th March 2013, Her Honour Judge Alice Robinson (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) handed down her judgment on the supplementary submissions of the parties directed at the potential “knock-on” effect of her original judgment on the Council’s planning policies. 

The University of Bristol owns around 70 hectares of land that lies within the Bristol-Bath Green Belt. The land is to the south west of Bristol, near Long Ashton, and falls within the Council’s administrative area. North Somerset Council’s Core Strategy provided for 14,000 dwellings to be built in the 10 year period between 2016 and 2026. The University of Bristol had objected and sought an increased number of houses but an inspector, having conducted an independent examination of the Core Strategy, had rejected the University’s objections. 

Ian Dove QC and Rowena Meager , instructed by Veale Wasbrough Vizards, had successfully argued that the Inspector’s reasons were flawed and HHJ Robinson had ruled in their favour in February but reserved her decision on the appropriate relief pending supplementary submissions, leading to this judgment. 

North Somerset Council argued that the policies should be remitted for consideration by the same Inspector, but HHJ Robinson agreed with Mr Dove QC that this was unheard of. She remained unconvinced that remitting as opposed to quashing amounted to “withholding relief”. HHJ Robinson considered that, while going through further consultation and modifications would extend the process and be costly, it would not be as costly and time-consuming as quashing the relevant policies and returning to the beginning. That said, the Court would not make a decision which would interfere with planning judgement matters, which was not its province.

Ian Dove QC was successful in his submissions relating to those North Somerset Council policies which he said should be remitted. HHJ Robinson held that any “increase in the total housing provision may result in the need for alterations to other policies”, hence the need to remit a number of policies for re-examination as distinct from the single policy, CS13, that had been determined to be unlawful. 

Opposing counsel had submitted that soundness should be addressed by the recommendation of supplementary policies but HHJ Robinson did not concur as she held that it would be contrary to the purposes of the legislation if an inspector was restricted to only considering soundness of the policies as opposed to the overall plan. 

HHJ Robinson refused to remit CS16 (affordable housing) as it would have left North Somerset Council without an adopted policy requiring affordable housing. Concluding, Her Honour Judge Robinson remitted CS6 (Green Belt), CS13 (Housing Requirement Figure), CS14 (Distribution of new housing), CS19 (Strategic gaps), CS28 (Weston-super-Mare), CS30 (Weston Villages), CS31 (Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead), CS32 (Service Villages) and CS33 (Infill villages, smaller settlements and countryside) with a direction that they are to be treated as not having been recommended for adoption or adopted. 

Ian Dove QC is Deputy Head of No5 Chambers. Chambers and Partners say he is highly regarded for his “tactical expertise and phenomenal ability” while Legal 500 proclaims “he is simply a star”. The Planning Group at No5 Chambers is “well placed to offer a comprehensive nationwide planning service, easily the foremost planning set in the Midlands” according to Chambers and Partners 2013 and the set is home to “some of the finest barristers in the country”. Chambers explains that No5’s domination of the Midlands’ circuit is founded upon “a specialist team that can act on any planning issue that comes its way”. Anyone wishing to know more should visit or telephone 0845 210 5555. 

Please click here to view the profiles for Ian Dove QC and Rowena Meager