BASINGSTOKE and Deane Borough Council’s (BDBC) plan to challenge a planning inspector’s decision to approve 270 new houses has been opposed by the Secretary of State.

A planning inspector appointed by the Government had sided with a developer following its appeal against the council's initial refusal.

The planning application is to build 270 new houses for a patch of land between the A34 and Andover Road, south of Newbury.

The inspector’s order came on January 30 after the developer Bewley Homes appealed against BDBC’s decision to refuse permission.

READ MORE: Bewley Homes plans to build 260 new homes in Tadley

However, the local authority has since decided to challenge this order, saying the inspector’s finding that the proposal complied with the development plan was “plainly irrational”.

Ahead of challenging the decision, BDBC sent a pre-action letter to the Secretary of State detailing the proposed claim and the remedy sought.

A legal team of the Secretary of State has however written back to the council indicating that the matter would be defended if a challenge is issued by the council.

The proposed development includes a hybrid application to build a mixed-use community which would be delivered in separate phases.

BDBC dismissed this application in April 2023 after hundreds of residents objected to the plans.

However, a planning inspector later granted permission following an appeal and a two-week planning inquiry.

A BDBC spokesperson said the local authority decided to challenge this decision, but clarified that it is not a judicial review. It is called a statutory review or statutory challenge.

The spokesperson said: “After taking legal advice, the council issued proceedings to challenge the appeal decision on a point of law as a public law statutory challenge. The council awaits hearing from the High Court whether permission has been granted to proceed with the challenge.

“Prior to issuing such proceedings the Civil Procedure Rules require a claimant to send a pre-action protocol letter detailing the proposed claim and the remedy sought. The council sent a pre-action letter and the Secretary of State responded indicating that were a challenge to be issued then it would be defended.”

In a letter, seen by the Gazette, the legal team of the Secretary of State told BDBC that the proposed ground of challenge is "without any merit".

It said the Secretary of State will robustly contest any claim by BDBC in full.

Bewley Homes said it was “very surprised and disappointed about the council’s decision”.

Andy Morris, head of strategic land at Bewley Homes, said: “The appeal set out very clearly why the overall benefits of the scheme outweighed the council’s decision to refuse consent.

“The Inspector gave significant weight in his decision to the provision of both market and affordable housing in the face of the council failing to maintain a minimum five-year provision.

“We have included 108 affordable homes in our plans for the Watermill Bridge scheme, which will be provided through a Housing Association partner and will start to house local people on the Council’s waiting list, currently standing at over 5,000 families, one of the worst records in the country.”

SEE ALSO: Buckskin Lane: Fourth man charged with attempted murder

Andrew Brooks, managing director at Bewley Homes, added: “It’s on the back of the Secretary of State’s rebuttal that the local authority feels it is important to re-direct hard-earned taxpayer money, which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, on a point that is so tenuous.

“Both the Government and local authorities have no bigger responsibility than to provide housing for local people in need. Fundamentally, BDBC is failing its residents and this most recent action, in challenging an appeal decision and Secretary of State guidance, thoroughly supports my stance on this matter.

“While the objectors and some local people with homes might feel it’s a good use of taxpayers’ money to submit a Judicial Review, I am sure the five thousand families sitting on housing waiting lists in Basingstoke would not agree.”