Taxpayers in east Suffolk could face further costs after High Court judge quashes decision in long-running Yoxford planning row

Twilight descends upon the fields near Yoxford.

Twilight descends upon the fields near Yoxford. - Credit: Archant

A long-running planning row in east Suffolk that has already cost the taxpayer a significant sum is set to rumble on for many more months after a High Court judge approved the latest in an ongoing saga of appeals.

Hopkins Homes’ proposals to build 26 homes on historic parkland in Yoxford were aided by yesterday’s judgement from Mr Justice Supperstone who quashed the refusal of its appeal made by the Planning Inspectorate last year.

Suffolk Coastal District Council, which refused the original application and also contested last Tuesday’s appeal in the High Court, has expressed its disappointment and pledged to appeal the decision.

The appeal’s failure would mean a new public inquiry and a substantial legal bill for the taxpayer on top of the costs already spent on last year’s five-day hearing.

Campaigners who opposed the application from its outset have spoken of their anger and disappointment with the decision.

Tim Williams, who co-ordinated much of the public campaign and spoke passionately about the application’s intrusion into historic parkland at the inquiry, said he felt the democratic process had been overruled.

“The feelings and views of the village have been ignored completely and the democratic process that had been followed seems to count for nothing,” he said,

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“The issues of developing on historic parkland still stands and this would set a dangerous precedent not just for this area but for the whole region.”

Mr Justice Supperstone’s judgement identifies flaws with the reasoning behind the planning inspector’s decision, who ruled the application gave rise to “unacceptable effects that were not outweighed by any benefits”.

Hopkins Homes said it was pleased with the decision but it disappointed it was “compelled to resort to this action”.

“This carefully considered judgment clarifies the weight that the district council should give to national and local planning policies in deciding planning applications which help to meet the acute housing shortage in the region, “ a spokesman added.

“That said, we have no criticism of the council in our discussions about the important planning issues raised.”

SCDC had been required to contest the appeal as the Planning Inspectorate had decided defending its decision “would not have made good used of public funds” after receiving legal advice that the inspector’s decision was flawed.

Yoxford’s district councillor Barry Slater said it was “hugely disappointing” that the Planning Inspectorate left the district council to contest the case.

Geoff Holdcroft, who is responsible for planning at the district council, said the conclusion the inspector’s reasoning was flawed did not automatically mean permission should be granted and said the council would continue to “robustly defend” its original decision.

He said: “We are very disappointed by this judgement and, because this case raises important issues of planning law and policy, relevant not only to Suffolk Coastal but also to many councils like us who are seeking to ensure that much-needed housing is provided in the right locations, we will seek permission to appeal.

“We hope that the Court of appeal will recognise that the planning inspector’s’ decision was in fact legally sound and that the refusal of permission for development at this site can be upheld, without the need for a further planning inquiry.”

The district council will also be applying for Hopkins Homes to pay costs, should its appeal be successful.