Legal advice taken over water neutrality in the Chichester District

Wednesday, 23 March 2022 08:27

By Karen Dunn - Local Democracy Reporter

Chichester District Council took legal advice after its decision not to use water neutrality guidance as a reason to revoke planning permission was challenged.

On September 14, Natural England – the government’s adviser for the natural environment – published a Position Statement requiring new developments to achieve water neutrality in the Sussex North Water Supply Zone.

Essentially, total water use in the region after a development was built had to be equal to or less than the usage beforehand.

During a meeting of the planning committee in February, members declared that the requirements would not be applied retrospectively to any permissions granted before September 14. But a pre-action protocol letter from Kirdford Parish Council challenged that decision, accusing the district of adopting a policy when it had no power to do so, or adopting a policy in error.

A subsequent meeting on Monday (March 21) saw the committee back-pedal on the decision after the council received legal advice.

 The meeting was told that the aim of the original decision had been to ‘provide certainty to developers that the authority was not looking to revoke existing permissions which, should they be submitted now, would be subject to the water neutrality Position Statement’.

The parish council, though, said that, if any application or request for revocation be received in the future, the planning committee had ‘fettered the decision making process’ for such a request.

While the district council did not consider its decision to be unlawful, it chose not to defend the accusations but to take a ‘proportionate approach’.
As such, the committee cancelled its previous decision.

Instead, it agreed that September 14 was the date on which the Position Statement became a material planning consideration.

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