Michael Gove is being sued by a major housebuilder because he blocked a development he felt was not “aesthetically pleasing”.
Berkeley Homes is taking the Housing Secretary to court over his decision to overrule planning inspectors and refuse permission for a 165-home project in Kent.
Lawyers for the company have written to Mr Gove informing him that it intends to challenge his “irrational” move.
He claims the plans for Crane Valley, in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, did not “reflect the expectations” of the local design code.
In April 2021 Mr Gove “called in” the application. An independent planning inspector recommended that it should be approved and planning permission granted, subject to conditions.
However, Mr Gove decided to refuse permission. A letter which detailed his thinking said that potential “harm to the landscape and scenic beauty…attracts great weight”.
The decision is believed to be the first time that Mr Gove has used his powers to block a development on aesthetic grounds since he pledged last year to crack down on “ugly identikit” houses “plonked down without regard to the shape and character of existing communities”.
Berkeley claims the refusal was partly based on “erroneous and out-of-date conclusions”.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities declined to comment.
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