"The court considered two alleged failures to subject the draft core strategy to proper environmental assessment. Mr Justice Ouseley upheld one of the grounds, finding that the local planning authorities had failed to properly consider alternatives to growth in the north-east "growth triangle" designated in the strategy during the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) process.
While an order specifying exactly what the judge wants the partnership to do to rectify the situation was still awaited at the time of going to press, he made it clear that he is not proposing to quash the whole strategy. Instead, he is requiring reconsideration of Broadland's housing strategy, including the need for another SEA and public consultation, before the core strategy is put back before an inspector for further public examination.
It is clear that Broadland's housing strategy is being sent back to the start of the process, throwing the council's five-year land supply figures into chaos and inevitably halting progress on its site allocations development plan document. The timing could not be worse for Broadland District Council, which is likely to see a number of opportunistic applications to develop land outside its preferred growth zone under the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
But can Broadland's housing strategy be reconsidered without affecting the rest of the strategy? The answer surely must be no. It is hard to see how proper consideration of the alternatives to growth being accommodated in the north-east triangle can exclude the possibility of some or all of that growth being reallocated to Norwich city or South Norfolk district.
The situation will be further complicated by the fact that the government is likely to have abolished the East of England regional strategy by the time this issue comes back to public examination. This presumably opens the way for opponents of growth to argue that a lower level of growth overall is more appropriate, again potentially affecting the whole joint core strategy area rather than just Broadland.
One local authority officer described the core strategy as being like a cake from which the judge has cut a slice away but left the rest intact. The fear must be that it is more like a wobbly jelly that threatens to lose all structural integrity as soon as the first spoonful is removed."
So not quite such a minor a problem the Leader of Broadland District Council would like the populace to believe!