Norfolk villagers who formed an action group called Snub in an attempt to stem urbanisation today won a High Court battle with council chiefs.
Snub - the Stop Norwich Urbanisation action group - successfully argued that three Norfolk local authorities had breached a "directive" requiring councils to assess the effects development plans might have on the environment.
A High Court judge ruled in Snub's favour after group chairman Stephen Heard took legal action against Broadland District Council, South Norfolk District Council and Norwich City Council.
Mr Heard, 57, of Salhouse near Norwich, complained that "reasonable alternatives" to urban growth had not been fully examined - and the judge concluded that the councils had breached a planning law "directive".
"It is part of the purpose of this process to test whether what may start out as the preferred option should still end up as preferred after a fair and public analysis of what the authority regards as reasonable alternatives," said Mr Justice Ouseley, in a written ruling handed down at a High Court hearing in London today.
"I do not consider that such an equal appraisal has been accorded to the alternatives."