Hatchfield battle at the High Court

Lord Derby
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A High Court judge has reserved his decision after hearing from both sides over the controversial proposal to build 400 new homes on Newmarket’s Hatchfield Farm in Fordham Road.

Lord Derby, who owns the land took the case to the High Court to challenge the decision by Secretary of State for communities and local government Sajiv Javid to reject Forest Heath District Council’s approval of his plan.

Yesterday’s hearing was before Mr Justice Gilbart in the Queen’s Bench division of the planning court.

Lord Derby was backed in court by members of the Rural Parishes’ Alliance, a group of 15 rural parish councils, representing more than 17,000 residents. They joined the peer because they want house building focused on Newmarket, rather than in their villages.

Christopher Boyle QC, for Lord Derby, said Forest Heath District Council had been on the verge of granting planning permission for the scheme in 2014.

But, after he was “lobbied” by local MP, Matthew Hancock, the then Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, had intervened.

A hard-fought public inquiry ensued and a government planning inspector recommended approval of the housing project.

But, after only a month in the job, Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, went his own way in August last year and refused consent.

Challenging that decision, Mr Boyle argued Mr Javid had failed to abide by the government’s own policy to encourage “sustainable” housing schemes.

The view that traffic would pose a danger to race horses was also fatally “inconsistent” with an earlier planning decision, he claimed.

And he told Mr Justice Gilbart that Mr Javid had taken an over-cautious approach when assessing the impact on the racing industry.

David Elvin QC, for the Newmarket Horsemen’s Group, which has argued that Lord Derby’s proposals will lead to increased traffic posing a threat to racehorses and their riders and the long-term future of the racing industry in Newmarket insisted that Mr Javid’s decision could not be faulted.

He had been right to take a “precautionary approach” when focusing on the issues of horse safety and the potential impact of the development on the world’s most important centre for the racing industry.

Mr Justice Gilbart has now reserved his decision on the case and will give his ruling at a later date.