'Massive victory' in High Court fight to stop 475 homes in Goring Gap

The High Court has quashed an inspector’s decision to allow 475 homes to be built at Chatsmore Farm – also known as the Goring Gap.

The news was greeted with delight by the Ferring Conservation Group, which said it was ‘time for dancing in the streets’.

Worthing Borough Council received more than 1,200 letters opposing the plans from developer Persimmon and rejected the application in March 2021.

But that decision was overturned on appeal, prompting a protest from residents and legal action from the council.

Protesters at Chatsmore Farm on Friday, March 25, 2022

Following a hearing at the High Court on July 20, Mrs Justice Lang DBE allowed the council’s claim for a statutory review on two of the four grounds submitted.

Essentially, she said the inspector had failed to take account of policies in the council’s emerging Local Plan or give enough weight to the impact the development would have on the South Downs National Park.

Council leader Beccy Cooper (Lab, Marine) said: “I am pleased to see that the voices of the community have been heard in this appeal.

“The decision justifies our actions in taking this appeal forward.

“We remain committed to protecting our green spaces, ensuring that the Climate Emergency is at the heart of all our decision making, alongside moving forward with a strong social housing offer on our brownfield sites to ensure that all our Worthing residents can live, work and thrive in our town.”

The council’s Conservative group leader Kevin Jenkins added: “This is great news for Worthing.

“All along we have said that this is the wrong place to build homes, that Chatsmore Farm is a valuable green gap, that should be preserved.

“I am pleased that the decision of the previous Conservative administration to fight the planning inspector’s decision has been proved right.

“I now call on the Secretary of State to call in this application for determination.

“Local voices need to be heard and listened to – this is the start of the next phase of the fight to preserve this green gap.”

Potential preparations for that fight could also be considered by Persimmon.

A spokesman said: “We are naturally disappointed with the judge’s decision.

“However, the judge’s concerns relate to the process by which the planning inspector reached his conclusion, rather than the conclusion itself.

“The independent planning inspector rightly highlighted Worthing’s ‘exceptional’ housing need and recognised that ‘the consequences of the unmet need are considerable and affect real people’, which was a key factor in his assessment of the issues.

“We will now reflect on this judgement and consider our options.”

A council spokesman said that, should the developer choose to take things further, the judgement would give the local authority ‘very strong grounds to fight any such case in the future’.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whose inspector gave the plan the go-ahead earlier this year, will now pay the council’s legal costs.

Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley said: “This is a massive victory for our local councils and for our communities. Many people have fought the good fight, I am glad to have supported them and to have worked with them. It was wrong that the Appeal Inspectorate overruled the elected council and the initial inspectorate’s justified refusal to build over 400 homes in the Goring Gap.”