Eynsham Parish Council News

Salt Cross judicial success 21 Feb 2024 Verdict rules Planning Inspectorate was wrong to water down net-zero targets

Following a High Court hearing in November 2023 in which Rights Community Action (RCA) challenged the Planning Inspectorate’s decisions over net-zero targets in the Salt Cross Garden Village Area Action Plan (AAP), the judicial review has found in RCA’s favour.

RCA challenged the Planning Inspectorate’s decisions to ‘water down’ the ambitious net-zero targets that had been included in the original AAP, claiming that West Oxfordshire District Council’s Policy 2 (concerning net-zero targets) conflicted with national policy.

The ruling has found in RCA’s favour, declared that “the Inspectors’ interpretation neither makes sense on the words, seen in their present context, or of the mischief to which it was applying…” Mrs Justice Lieven acknowledged that, if the Planning Inspectorate had “properly understood and applied national policy, then they might well have reached a different set of conclusions on Policy 2, whether in part or on its entirety”.

This case, which was crowd-funded online, will hopefully set a precedent to ensure other developers and councils nationwide stretch towards ambitious targets around net-zero when planning and building new homes. This should help the UK reach the ambitious national targets around carbon emissions and protect local environments and communities amidst escalating climate challenges.

Eynsham Parish Council Chair Ross Macken welcomed the announcement and a ruling that “should serve as an inspiration to other local communities nationwide. This shows that powerful developers can’t push for the cheaper solutions over ambitious net-zero targets when building new houses. It should also force the Planning Inspectorate to recognise and encourage development plans that aim for better, greener solutions to help preserve our environment.”

Sarah Couch of GreenTEA, which has worked hard to push for the highest environmental standards and supported the legal action, was equally delighted that the judge had ruled in favour of RCA. She said:

“We were appalled when the Planning Inspectorate rejected the net zero policy, despite overwhelming community support. As the impacts of climate change get ever starker, we need solutions more urgently than ever. A home built to net-zero standards would be resource efficient and could generate its own clean energy; it would be cheaper to run. So it makes no sense to prevent councils and their communities from expecting homes fit for the future."

The District Council released a statement following the ruling. Cllr Andy Graham, Leader of the Council, said "We are incredibly pleased with the judgement" as "we want this to be a groundbreaking, sustainable housing development which is why we pushed for higher standards in regards to net-zero carbon homes and energy efficiency." He added that the Council "will be analysing the detail of the judgement in the coming days to see how it impacts our plans moving forward." 

It is not yet known what the next steps will be for the Salt Cross Garden Village development plans but the solicitors of RCA suggested that it's likely the judge will quash the inspector’s report. It will then be for the Planning Inspectorate to decide how to respond. 

We will share any updates when we have them. There will likely be future public consultations which residents will be able to respond to. 




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