Challenge to Harrogate Local Plan succeeds on the narrowest and resolvable point, but fails fundamentally on all other grounds

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The Claimant (Flaxby Park Limited) brought a challenge to quash policy DM4 of the Harrogate local plan, which provided for a new settlement in the broad location of Green Hammerton/Cattal.

The Claimant raised three grounds of argument. In a detailed judgment by Holgate J, the Claimant only succeeded on the narrowest of grounds for a part of Ground 1[i]. The substance of which was that when the local plan was considered by the full council, there wasn’t in the report presented to members, a presentation of all of the sustainability appraisal  documents, including the updates that had been during the examination stage, as well as the outcome of consultation.

Grounds 2 and 3 of the challenge were firmly rejected by Holgate J.

Grounds for Challenge

Ground 1 “failure by the Council to consider environmental assessment of alternative “broad locations”

Following a detailed examination, Holgate J at para 212 found that the “legal flaw in the procedure followed by HBC was that the full Council did not take into account the final SEA material and consultation responses, or a summary and analysis thereof, when they resolved to adopt the local plan”

Other than this point, Ground 1 was dismissed by the Judge.

Ground 2-“failure to include an additional 630ha of land in the assessment of Flaxby as a broad location”

On ground 2, Holgate J robustly stated that “There is no merit in this complaint[ii]”. Holgate J established that the “officers were acting well within the scope of their delegated authority[iii]” and the actions of the Council could not be described at irrational.

Ground 3 “insufficiency of information or enquiry about the viability and deliverability of Green Hammerton/Cattal”

The Judge dismissed this ground of appeal and found that “there was evidence which was legally sufficient to support his conclusions on viability and deliverability” in the decisions reached by the inspector.[iv]


Harrogate Borough Council now have to take the relatively simple step to address the narrow point that the Claimant succeeded on. The full council and before that the cabinet can readily, quickly and simply reconsider the final stage of adoption.

The Claimant only received a costs order for 15% of their costs once unreasonable costs for producing their witness statement and bundle had been removed, a point discussed at length in the judgement.

Walker Morris represented the second interested party, Oakgate Yorkshire Limited and were represented by Christopher Young QC and James Corbet Burcher from No5 Chambers.

The Judgment can be found here

[i] Para 235

[ii] Para 142

[iii] Para 148

[iv] Para 164