A spokesman for Harrogate Borough Council said:
We are pleased that the court has dismissed outright two of the three challenges brought by Flaxby Park Limited, with the judge stating ‘they were weak grounds’.
The judge is clear there were no flaws in the development of the local plan, the process was fair and equal, and that sufficient evidence had been put forward in relation to the new settlement.
He has also ruled that the plan does not need to be quashed in part, or full, saying that would be ‘wholly unjustifiable’.
In relation to Ground 1, the court’s view is there was a minor procedural issue because specific attention was not drawn to an updated sustainability appraisal when adoption of the local plan was discussed by councillors, even though the document was in the public domain at the time.
The judge stated that although Flaxby Park Limited has been successful, in-part, to Ground 1 they had mounted a ‘time-consuming and costly attack on the local plan process’ and had ‘failed in achieving what was plainly the main object or thrust of the challenge.
To address the issue of the updated sustainability appraisal, a report will be brought to full council as soon as possible.
Chris Musgrave, chief executive at Flaxby Park Ltd, said:
Flaxby Park Limited (FPL) are delighted that we have been successful in winning our Judicial Review challenge.
FPL instigated the Judicial Review proceedings in the belief that Council Members of Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) had unlawfully adopted the Local Plan. This was the primary ground for the Judicial Review challenge.
We are pleased that Mr Justice Holgate has upheld our legal argument and has ordered the Local Plan to be ‘remitted’ back to the HBC Cabinet and then Full Council, so that both forums can consider whether the Local Plan should be adopted or not, in the light of information, which should have been shared with Elected Officials in March 2020, when the Local Plan was unlawfully adopted.
HBC did not take into account vital information such as the Sustainability Appraisal and the detail of the consultation process. As a result, the Councillors did not have all of the relevant information which would allow them to form a sound judgement on the merits of the Community Settlement issue.
Council Officers have a duty to provide Council Members with the fullest information and this has not been the case. As a result, the decision making of Elected Officials in the context of Flaxby Park has been flawed.
Over the past four years FPL have consistently complained that Council Officers had not provided Council Members with the fullest information in relation to our planning proposals, but our complaints have always been dismissed out of hand by the relevant Council Planning Officers – we can consider this to be an abuse of power and authority.
The judgement by Mr Justice Holgate has confirmed that HBC acted unlawfully by adopting the Local Plan and we note that an order has been made by the Judge for HBC to pay their own legal costs as well as a proportion of the costs incurred by FPL. This speaks volumes as to the validity of our successful legal challenge.
This Judicial Review and the financial costs to the tax payer could have been avoided if HBC had been willing to ‘listen’ – they failed to do this and we hope the ‘culture’ within the Council will change.