NHS launches legal proceedings over massive housing development

No S106 money to help provide health services, guess who controls Harborough District Council? Conservatives 22, Lib Dems 11, Labour 1 – Owl

Dave Owen www.leicestermercury.co.uk

Leicester’s hospitals have launched proceedings in the High Court over a massive, 2,750-home development planned for a swathe of land outside Lutterworth. The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is seeking a judicial review of a decision made by Harborough District Council in relation to the scheme.

Health bosses are unhappy with the authority after it turned down an application for just under a million pounds towards health services for future occupants of the development. The NHS Trust which runs the city’s three main hospitals had requested the money to mitigate the impact of residents’ healthcare needs.

The planning application, submitted by Leicestershire County Council, was approved by the district council in May this year. The new homes will be built on a 550-acre area of land just off Junction 20 of the M1.

Companies behind major developments are required to provide money towards the local community and infrastructure, such as health services, schools and leisure facilities. Such contributions, known as section 106 agreements, are legally binding and enforceable.

Opponents of the housing scheme claimed it would put undue pressure on local services in the town, which has a population of 9,500. However, council leaders had assured residents that the new homes would bring in “as much as £1 billion” in investment, including new schools a parks. They also said it would create new opportunities for businesses and create an estimated 2,500 new jobs in the town.

Provision of those aspects of a development are frequently funded via section 106 agreements, with the planning authority setting out what it requires a developer to agree to fund before it will issue planning permission.

But in this case, the district council approved the Lutterworth development without asking the developer to pay the money to fund health services which had been requested by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. Now the Trust has asked for that decision to be reviewed by the High Court.

The Trust claims that such a large housing scheme will place a huge burden on existing health services, including Leicester Royal Infirmary. It says that the homes will create an extra 3,487 people who will rely on health services it provides – and it needs the money to help pay for it.

Richard Mitchell, chief executive at Leicester’s Hospitals, said: “We have sought a judicial review to support our aim in making sure the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have timely and safe access to health care services.”

Patient campaigner Zuffar Haq said he understood why the hospital trust had resorted to taking legal action against the district council. Speaking to Harborough FM, he said: “This is very rare. Ideally, they should have been able to get the money from the 106 agreement but they’ve obviously failed.”

A map of the Lutterworth East site

“We’re talking about a million pounds, and it is going to affect hospital services in Leicestershire. That million pounds is sorely needed I’m sure,” he added. “The reality is, if there is going to be over 2,000 new houses, the hospitals are going to have more people coming in from that area.

“They need the funds and the infrastructure to deal with that. I think the hospitals will struggle, and are struggling, for finances and have every right to be asking for that money and making sure that it gets delivered, because otherwise it’s going to affect the patients.”

The judicial review process will see a judge decide if the planning authority acted lawfully in making its decision.

A spokesperson for Harborough District Council said: “We can confirm that the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has issued judicial review proceedings against the council.

“The claim relates to Leicestershire County Council’s planning application at Lutterworth East, which was approved in May 2022. It is therefore inappropriate for us to comment while the case is ongoing.”

A Leicesteshire County Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is challenging Harborough District Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the Lutterworth East scheme.

“As both landowner and applicant, Leicestershire County Council is an interested party in the proceedings and will not be commenting further whilst proceedings are ongoing.”

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