A planned development in the Kent Downs AONB that had earlier been quashed by the High Court was last night (Tuesday, May 29) approved by Folkestone and Hythe District Council.
The scheme for 12 holiday lodges, tennis courts and a fishing lake at Little Densole Farm, Densole, had initially been approved by the council (when it was known as Shepway District Council) in February last year, but that decision, which had been recommended for refusal by the council’s own planning officer, was challenged by local businessman Tim Steer and in February this year it was overturned by the High Court.
The consent was quashed by Mrs Justice Lang on the basis of inadequate reasons for overturning the officer’s recommendation.
In making this judgment, she cited the case of Dover District Council v CPRE Kent, where at the Supreme Court we successfully defended the Appeal Court’s decision to quash a planning permission in the Farthingloe Valley near Dover.
In the Densole case, Mr Steer had based his bid for a judicial review of Shepway’s decision on three grounds.
Two of these were rejected by the court, but the one accepted by the judge was:
“The committee was under a common-law duty to give reasons for its decision, as it was not following the OR’s [officer’s report’s] recommendation, and the application concerned a protected AONB. It failed to provide adequate and intelligible reasons for its decision to grant planning permission.”
It is here that the Farthingloe case was cited.
Mr Steer was quoted in the Folkestone and Hythe Express as saying:
“We hope that in the future the council will take its responsibilities more seriously and carefully and follow planning policy and logic.”
Last night, however, the proposal – which was again recommended for refusal by a council planning officer – went back before the Folkestone and Hythe planning committee and was accepted by eight votes to one (with one abstention).
It is not immediately apparent how circumstances have changed, or in what way the overturning of the officer’s recommendation was explained sufficiently.
Graham Horner, Shepway CPRE chairman, said: “Disappointingly, this is what we expected, to be honest. One councillor gave a speech giving all the reasons the committee should override the officer’s recommendation.
“There was no logic to it, but they seemed to think that having a recreational area in the AONB would bring in people and money.
“The new officer’s report appeared softened from the initial one. Previously, it had been poorly defined as to what constituted a major development, but it was now decided that, no, this wasn’t a major development, so that cleared one of the major hurdles.
“Why would they change their view? There were no new drawings, no new reports. It was stated that the applicant had planted a lot of trees, but he was going to plant those anyway as part of the application!”
One councillor asked for a recorded vote, but that suggestion was not accepted as four members of the committee need to agree to it.
For more detail on the background to this story, see here
Wednesday, May 30, 2018