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Duty to Cooperate Judgement

Sir Ross Cranston sitting as a Judge of the High Court has ruled that St Albans City and District Council (SACDC) has not fulfilled the requirements of the Duty to Cooperate (DtC) in the preparation of its Strategic Local Plan (SLP). The DtC is a legal requirement that cannot be rectified during the Examination and thus SACDC will now be required to withdraw its SLP and engage in the preparation of a new SLP.

Following the submission of the SLP to the Secretary of State in August 2016 the Inspector, David Hogger, raised concerns that SACDC had not fulfilled its requirement with regards to the DtC and consequently held an initial hearing in October 2016.

The DtC is a continuous process that requires Local Authorities to make every effort to secure the necessary cooperation on strategic cross-boundary matters before they submit their plans for Examination.  The Inspector ruled in November 2016 that the DtC had not been satisfied and that SACDC should withdraw the SLP and undertake further discussions with neighbouring authorities.

SACDC chose to challenge this in the High Court seeking to quash the Inspector’s decision and continue with the Examination of the SLP.  The judgment handed down confirms that this challenge has been unsuccessful and that the Inspector did not err in law in arriving at his conclusion that SACDC had not met the DtC.

SACDC must now consider any further legal recourse or accept the judgement and start again with its plan providing clear evidence of effective working with neighbouring authorities. 

There remain significant differences in the view of SACDC and neighbouring authorities in terms of how the Housing Market Area functions and what level of housing provision SACDC should be delivering as part of the SLP; which suggests that a revised SLP will not progress quickly.  However there is clearly a need for more effective engagement between all parties in advancing Local Plans in this area. 

The judgment is as a reminder to all Local Authorities preparing new Plans that the DtC requires continual and effective dialogue with neighbouring authorities throughout Plan preparation over cross-boundary matters. 

13 July 2017

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