Blean greenfield site saved (for now) in High Court win over government

The land at Blean Common saved from development
(pic Canterbury City Council)

CPRE Kent welcomes the news that a greenfield site in east Kent has been saved, at least for the time being, after a High Court victory for the local authority over the government.
Canterbury City Council took the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to court after a planning inspector granted planning permission for 85 homes at Blean Common next to the Royal Oak pub.
The council’s planning committee had previously refused the application, but the applicant, Gladman Developments Ltd, appealed the decision.
During April’s subsequent court hearing, the council argued the inspector had misinterpreted policies in both its Local Plan at the time and the then-emerging Local Plan concerning development in the district and on greenfield land specifically.
And yesterday (Tuesday, June 26) in the High Court, Mr Justice Dove backed the council’s case, quashing the decision of the planning inspector, meaning the appeal must be redetermined by a different inspector.
Further, the Secretary of State was ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of £19,218. There is the right of appeal against the court’s decision.
The council had refused the planning application on grounds including the fact it was a sporadic form of development outside of the village area of Blean, would represent a harmful form of development in a rural location and was detrimental to the character and appearance of the surrounding rural environment in general.
Simon Thomas, the council’s head of planning, said: “It’s highly unusual for us to take the government to court in this way, but there were important issues at stake here.
“Our Local Plan has very clear policies on where we will allow development and on the protection of our precious countryside.
“The inspector misinterpreted these and reached a decision that we felt we had no option but to challenge on behalf of local residents.
“It is not the end for this specific planning application, though, as the Planning Inspectorate is now required to reconsider the appeal.”
Land agent Gladman has been involved in planning conflicts across the country, much of its approach entailing working at the minutiae of local authorities’ five-year land supply, arguing they are not providing the new housing required of them by central government.
Gladman does not build the homes itself. Rather, it seeks to win planning permission allowing developers to put up developments not planned for by local councils.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to disputes up and down the land, with many cases going to public inquiry.
The company’s website says: “Gladman is the UK’s most successful land promoter with an unrivalled success rate of over 90%…
“We have achieved planning permission for over 10,000 new homes and have secured planning permission on over 60 sites in the last year.”
The behaviour of speculative land agents is one of the most taxing issues facing local authorities and countryside campaigners today.
Tom Fyans, CPRE’s director of campaigns and policy, said: “We are deeply concerned at the stress and impact this sort of speculative behaviour is having on our countryside, wildlife and on rural communities – land promoters actively work against local wishes for the sake of their own profit.
“Changes must be made to close these loopholes in national planning policy to ensure the planning system drives developments that are needed and welcomed by local authorities.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018