Leading players in the world of horseracing have launched a High Court bid to block a new housing strategy they say threatens Newmarket’s position as “the capital of the horseracing industry”.
They are asking a judge to quash approval of the Forest Heath Core Strategy Development Plan, which they fear will alter the unique, horse-friendly character of the Suffolk town.
But Lord Derby is intervening in the High Court battle in support of the proposals for new homes.
The stud-owner, whose family gave its name to the world’s most famous race, prompted anger and protests when he took advantage of the proposed new strategy and applied for permission for 1,200 new homes on his Hatchfield Farm property north-east of Newmarket.
The planning application was refused, but the appeal process is continuing. Lord Derby says the development is the best way to meet targets for new homes, and the last thing he intends to do is threaten Newmarket.
But David Elvin QC, speaking for the Save Historic Newmarket Ltd (SHNL) campaign group, told the court: “National and international racing interests are very concerned that the proposals for urban expansion will impact on Newmarket as a centre of racing excellence.”
The new planning strategy was adopted by Forest Heath District Council in May last year, but SHNL is arguing that the adoption decision is procedurally flawed and must be quashed.
Its legal challenge is being supported by Tattersalls Ltd, Unex Group Holdings Ltd, Jockey Club Estates Ltd, Newmarket Trainers’ Federation, Godolphin Management Co Ltd and Darley Stud Management Co Ltd.
Mr Elvin told Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London, that in drawing up the new development strategy, there had been a failure to take proper account of all the relevant evidence when balancing the need for new homes against racing industry concerns.
The hearing continues on Wednesday.