In another blow to Canterbury’s rapidly diminishing
countryside, a High Court judge has dismissed an attempt to stop the building
of hundreds of homes to the east of the city.
The A28 Environmental Crisis Group had sought judicial reviews of the city council’s approval of two neighbouring developments, one for 250 homes at Hoplands Farm, Hersden, and the other for 370 at Chislet Colliery, a site that had not been allocated in the Local Plan for housing.
The group’s case was based primarily on the argument that the local authority had not taken into account the joint impact of the two schemes, especially in relation to nearby Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve.
However, on Wednesday last week (July 24) Mrs Justice Lang ruled against the challenges, concluding that the council had made the decisions lawfully.
The judge also denied the campaigners permission to appeal. However, Antonie van den Broek told KentOnline that his campaign group would indeed be trying to take the case to the Court of Appeal.
“Favourable rulings would potentially have set significant precedents for local authorities and developers throughout the UK,” he said.
“But this is not the end of the story. We think errors have been made by Canterbury City Council and the developers.
“This particular judge has said otherwise and also refused our applications for permission to appeal her decisions, but we are going to take this to the Court of Appeal.
“These things are never about whether something is a good idea or not. It’s about whether the law was followed.
“It’s an unusual situation in that there are two developments side by side and by two different companies.
“Therefore, the law deems them as separate. We’ve been arguing you can’t do that with the impact on the environment. The environment doesn’t care whether it’s one developer or two.”
A Canterbury City Council statement read: “Between them, the two developments will provide up to 620 much-needed homes for local people, together with medical outlets, shops, open space and other benefits.”
Ian Thomas, chairman of the council’s planning committee, added: “We are naturally pleased to have won both of these cases, which will allow these important housing developments to go ahead.
“It is becoming increasingly common for opponents to new homes to launch these types of legal proceedings. We are always very careful to ensure we follow all the right procedures, so that if we do end up in court, we have a good chance of winning.”
The decision follows a failed attempt to overturn planning permission for more than 1,000 new homes in the Thanington area of south Canterbury.
The city council had, in July 2016, given Pentland Properties permission to build up to 750 properties on a 73-hectare site at Cockering Farm, while in November last year Quinn Estates was granted outline consent for up to 400 homes on a neighbouring site off Cockering Road.
Campaigner Camilla Swire then won permission to seek a judicial of the Quinn planning permission and the council’s approval of variations to the Pentland Properties consent, arguing that the two developments should have been considered as a “combined masterplan”.
By the time the case came before a High Court judge, however, building had already started on the first phase of the Pentland development, following the council’s approval of reserved matters.
Both sites, which lie close to the Larkey Valley Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest and in a designated Area of High Landscape Value, are treated as a single unit in Canterbury’s Local Plan, but, with them in different ownership and being developed separately, it was argued by Ms Swire that the local authority had breached its own policy through failing to have the combined masterplan.
In response, the council claimed any potential breach was merely a technicality and that, in reality, the impact of both developments had been considered together.
Mr Justice Stuart-Smith appeared to concur, saying all that was missing was “a single piece of paper” showing the two planning applications had been considered alongside each other.
He refused the judicial review, concluding that a combined masterplan “would have made no difference whatsoever” to the outcome of the planning applications.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019