Defeat in highest court of the land for former Blackpool FC owner Owen Oyston
Owen Oyston has suffered another defeat in court, this time over his plans to build more than 500 houses in St Annes.
The former Blackpool FC owner, who lost a series of bitter court actions when he owned the club, had been told that his appeal over land at Lytham Moss has failed.
Fylde Coast Farms Ltd, formerly known as Osyton Estates, had appealed against Fylde Council’s decision not to include his site, east of Queensway, to be included in the local neighbourhood development plan as a housing site.
The council had decided in 2017 not to include the area in the plan, which will inform future planning applications, and a public referendum vote had been taken.
An independent examiner had looked through the proposals for the plan at the time and recommended that Oyston’s land be included, designated as housing, but the council disagreed, and was supported by Natural England and the plan was eventually approved with that land designated countryside.
But Oyston Estates tried to get the decision overturned and launched a judicial review.
Fylde Coast Farms Ltd, had been granted permission to build 550 new homes at Lytham Moss, in December 2016, when the company was known as Oyston Estates Ltd and the latest ruling casts doubts over the future of this scheme.
The case was looked at by Lord Lloyd Jones, Lord Briggs, Lady Arden, Lord Sales, and Lord Stephens this month.
Barristers Jonathan Easton represented Fylde Council and Estelle Dehon, who represented Friends of the Earth in the Cuadrilla Fracking public enquiry at Blackpool FC in 2016, represented Fylde Coast Farms instructed by Instructed by Harrison Drury.
She suggested in the hearing that having time limits linked to each stage of a procedure in these plans would create an “unwelcome detailed dissection of a claim” and might also risk causing serious injustice to ordinary residents who might want to appeal as the six week period would restrict their ability to get legal help.
After the hearing, Lord Sales explained that the law governing planning permissions depends on development plans adopted by local planning authorities. He said that the Localism Act 2011 introduced a new procedure for the creation of neighbourhood development plans whose outcome would depend on a referendum to make them more democratic.
He said a series of steps were involved and a series of strict time limits to challenge the plan relating to each stage. He said this appeal was concerned with the interpretation of those time limits.
He said a proposal for a neighbourhood development plan for St Annes was put forward which did not include the land in question owned by Oyston Estates at the time.
Despite an independent examiner recommending the site which Oyston wanted to develop for housing, should be included, the council decided against this.
The plan went to local referendum and was approved by a large majority and came into effect.
Oyston started judicial review proceedings after the end of the procedure, saying the council had acted unlawfully in refusing to accept the recommendation of the independent examiner and include his land as potential housing land.
But Lord Sales said his move was outside the six week time limit from when the council’s alleged legal error occurred and the appeal must be denied.
The High Court and the Court of Appeal had both agreed he was out of time at previous hearings and now the Supreme Court upheld that ruling. He said the law imposed strict time limits for challenges to each stage to avoid having a final referendum overturned when legal issues should have been sorted out before hand.
He said: “That would have risked creating disaffection with the new referendum procedure which could undermine rather than promote public engagement.”
The land is shown as an area of countryside in the Fylde Local Plan to 2032.
It is also shown as an area of countryside in the Saint Anne’s on The Sea Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) prepared by St Annes Town Council and made by Fylde Council on 24 May 2017.
The council disagreed with the independent examiner’s suggestion to included it as housing land at the time, because it felt he had made a mistake in how he applied Habitat Regulations in coming to his decision.
The council later commissioned Arcadis (the council’s ecological consultant) to carry out look at the issue, and following receipt of this document officers re-consulted Natural England who supported its case that this area should be designated countryside rather than housing land. In a previous appeal hearing at the High Court in 2017, the Oystons had to pay the council’s £1,250 legal costs for the failed legal challenge and Fylde Coast Farms may now be liable for yet more costs.
It also casts doubts about the firm’s plans to build houses there in future.
Coun Fiddler, chairman of the council’s planning committee said:“Fylde Council is extremely pleased that the Supreme Court has found in the council’s favour and confirmed the previous decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
“This decision protects the development strategy set out in the Fylde Local Plan to 2032 and we will be asking the developer of this site to withdraw their planning application.”
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