Challenge to stop 100 homes being built on Green Belt 'unlikely to be successful'

Cllr Paul Zukowskyj

Cllr Paul Zukowskyj believes the decision from the planning inspector sets a very dangerous precedent - Credit: WHBC

A bid to legally challenge the planning inspector's decision to allow 100 homes to be built on land near Bullens Green Lane was voted down at a full council meeting last week.

Green Belt land is being allowed to be released to build homes on in the Local Plan as the planning inspector has there is a lack of a five year supply of deliverable homes.

Bullens Green Lane development site

The development site off Bullens Green Lane - Credit: Google

The scheme involves up to 100 homes, including 45 per cent affordable and 10 per cent self-build, but was deemed to have only a limited impact on the integrity of the wider Green Belt.

Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dem leader, Paul Zukowskyj, submitted the motion as he believes allowing the houses to be built opens up the entirety of our Green Belt for potential development.

The Conservative group expressed sympathy with Cllr Zukowskyj but decided not to support a challenge on the basis that the costs would be too high and the chances of success too low.

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Cllr Zukowskyj said after the meeting: “The reality is there for all to see. Warm words on Green Belt turn to ash when money is needed to actually make a stand. Any trip to court is uncertain, but what is now certain is that without a challenge, our green and pleasant land is up for grabs.

“With lots of commentators suggesting the Conservative Party get huge donations from property developers, perhaps they felt conflicted. As my colleague Cllr Tamsin Jackson-Mynott said, 'At what point does the value of the environment outstrip the value of the pound?' Clearly never from their decision last night.

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“Our Green Belt is threatened as never before. The Conservatives have abandoned it to its fate. Future generations will not thank them for that.

"Our Green Belt needs champions, not chancers.”

Welwyn Hatfield councillor Stephen Boulton

Cllr Stephen Bouton said he was 'incandescent' at the decision - Credit: WHBC

At the meeting Cllr Stephen Boulton, executive member for environment, planning, estates and development, said: "I share Paul's horror at the decision on the appeal. Incandescent would be a mild word to describe how I felt and how it has driven a coach and horses through our own policy.

"Obviously we are all extremely disappointed in the appeal decision. As soon as I heard the decision I asked officers to seek legal council's opinion as to the likelihood to succeeding in a judicial review.

"Unfortunately the legal advice concluded that whilst the appeal decision is disappointing and contains a number of judgements that we reasonably disagree with. These are not judgements which in the view of the expert lawyer give rise to an arguable error in law."

He said the planning inspector's decision may not set a precedent for sites elsewhere - as each site is considered on its own merits.

The Liberal Democrat St Albans council also considered challenging the decision but arrived at the same conclusion.

Cllr Duncan Bell

Cllr Duncan Bell - Credit: WHBC

Cllr Duncan Bell felt it would be irresponsible to challenge the decision, he said: "I support Cllr Boulton. The balance of risk here, the likelihood of success is too low and the likelihood of a high cost is too great."

However Cllr Zukowskyj countered by saying he does believe it is a legally challengeable decision, as the planning inspector gave 'very limited weight' to the emerging Local Plan in his decision. Which he believes no other planning inspector has done, which makes the judgement 'irrational' and therefore challengeable.

The motion was voted down 15 votes in favour and 22 votes against with one abstention.

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