ZURICH Assurance is to challenge the High Court judgement which looked to have finally ended its 24-year fight to build a massive new town near Micheldever.

The company intends to contest the ruling at the Court of Appeal.

Last week the High Court rejected Zurich’s original challenge to Winchester’s District Local Plan, which does not include its proposed development of 12,500 new homes on its land near Micheldever Station.

Mr Justice Sales dismissed all three strands of legal argument presented to him at a hearing in February.

Nearby residents hoped this would finally bring Zurich’s battle to a close.

But a spokesperson for Zurich, formally Eagle Star Estates, said the company was “disappointed that the High Court rejected the terms of its legal challenge and ruled in favour of Winchester City Council’s Adopted Joint Core Strategy.

“Zurich Assurance Ltd recognises the potential for housing development at Micheldever Station, located to the north of Winchester and we intend to appeal against the High Court’s decision.

“In our view, there are a number of errors in the housing plan adopted by Winchester City Council in the Joint Core Strategy.

“Amongst the concerns are that the plan will provide an inadequate number of new local homes in the period to 2031.

“We appreciate the sensitivity of this matter, and we have no immediate plans to take forward any development proposal at Micheldever Station. However, it is important that we keep all options open.
“That is what our appeal against the High Court ruling will allow us to do.”Z

urich’s challenge to the district’s planning blue print for the next 17 years - developed following years of extensive public consultation by Winchester City Council – is based on allegations technical errors were made by the inspector who examined the draft plans, making the Local Plan’s adoption unlawful.

If this latest appeal proves successful it will threaten to derail the entire planning strategy for the area, giving Zurich and others the chance to promote their controversial developments.

The Dever Society, which comprises residents in and around Micheldever, has campaigned against the new town since 1990.

Chairman Douglas Paterson said: “Zurich are really pushing their luck, the ruling last week was pretty categorical.

“I think the judge’s use of the word ‘unmeritorious’ is a pretty severe put down, it means ‘you’re wasting my time’.

“As I understand it if the appeal is ‘unmeritorious’ too Zurich will be liable for very substantial costs. But they clearly have a sniff of a huge windfall with the development so think it’s worth it.

“I have the greatest admiration for the city council and planners who have made a hugely considered and democratic Local Plan. We have to hope that the processes higher up will continue to uphold it.”

Winchester MP Steve Brine said: “This challenge shows a thorough discourtesy to us all and I thought Mr Justice Sales put it very well when he described Zurich’s primary point of contention as ‘contrived and unmeritorious’.”