A DEVELOPER who wants to build 2,000 homes on the edge of Winchester has suffered a defeat in the High Court on the eve of the crucial public inquiry.

A High Court judge yesterday rebuffed Cala Homes in its quest to make a planning inspector follow regional housing targets.

Cala argues that no weight should be given to Government plans to scrap the targets in the inquiry over houses at Barton Farm.

Last autumn the Government advised planners to bear in mind the targets are being scrapped in favour of devolving power down to councils.

Keeping the 12,000-home target for the Winchester district until 2026 is widely reckoned to make it more likely that Barton Farm will be built.

However, dismissing Cala’s case, Mr Justice Lindblom said there was nothing irrational about the Government advice and the company’s objections were “based on an incorrect understanding of what the Secretary of State (Eric Pickles) has actually done.”

The judge said that, at the planning inquiry due to start today, the sole contentious issue will be whether there is a “need” for large-scale housing development at Barton Farm.

Cala’s barrister Peter Village QC had attacked the advice as a “transparently unlawful attempt to subvert” the will of Parliament, saying planners are obliged to apply the law as it stands and it could not be right for them to take into account the Government’s stated intention to effectively revoke regional strategies and to “abolish the regional tier of development plan policy”.