We support council in its Local Plan challenge, says Sevenoaks chairman

‘If the judicial review goes ahead, many councils will be hoping Sevenoaks succeeds’

CPRE Kent has backed Sevenoaks District Council’s decision to begin judicial review proceedings in its challenge to the Planning Inspectorate.
The council’s move had been in response to a government-appointed inspector’s refusal to endorse its new Local Plan.
Nigel Britten, the countryside charity’s district chairman, said: “CPRE Kent supports the action being taken by Sevenoaks District Council to resolve the impasse over its Local Plan.
“The main argument about technical procedure exposes the crude and uncompromising system that is forcing councils like Sevenoaks to give priority to development over protection of the countryside.
“Sevenoaks district is almost entirely Green Belt and largely within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“The planning system does quite clearly give the council the right not to sacrifice these areas of national importance, yet the inspector seems unwilling to recognise that fact and to wish to impose impractically high thresholds for any deviation from the government’s artificial and unrealistic housing targets.
“If the judicial review goes ahead, many councils – and CPRE – will be hoping that Sevenoaks District Council succeeds”

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Legal challenge launched against plan to develop water meadows for car park extension

Beautiful… Wincheap Water Meadows

CPRE Kent is legally challenging the decision by Canterbury City Council to award itself planning permission for the expansion of a car park over an area of undeveloped riverside.
The local authority’s planning committee approved the council’s own planning application on Tuesday, October 15, meaning that, if it goes ahead, the Wincheap Park & Ride extension will cover a stretch of floodplain next to the River Stour, an area known as Wincheap Water Meadows.
This is a Local Wildlife Site, lies in an Area of High Landscape Value and is part of the designated Stour Valley Green Corridor.
The city council says it needs to extend the park & ride at Wincheap once a new A2 slip road has been built, but CPRE Kent, supported by the Save Wincheap Water Meadows campaign, says there are other sites that could be used or alternatively part of the existing car park could be decked.
CPRE Kent is now calling for a judicial review of the council planning committee’s decision and the way it was arrived at.
The legal challenge rests on three grounds:
• Failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment
• Legal errors in the Habitats Regulation Assessment
• Misleading claims that the site had been ‘allocated’ in the Local Plan and that it would not have a harmful effect on the landscape
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “This is not the sort of action we take lightly, but sometimes a planning decision is simply wrong and we can’t stand by and watch a precious natural asset to so many people be destroyed.
“This is very much one of those occasions.”   
Although the application has been approved by the council’s planning committee, a final decision on the project will be taken by full council next year.
Save Wincheap Water Meadows is working with CPRE Kent and has pledged to raise £5,000 to help fund the initial phase of the legal challenge, paying the costs of preparing and filing the application for judicial review. 
A campaign spokesman said: “We need your support. Please help us to save this precious stretch of river valley for future generations.”

  • If you would like to contribute to the campaign to save Wincheap Water Meadows, please click here
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Monday, December 9, 2019

Victory as judges quash planning permission at Farthingloe

We are delighted that we have today (14 September) won an important victory in our lengthy legal battle to save an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe near Dover.

Two judges at the Court of Appeal have quashed the planning application to build 521 homes and a 90 apartment retirement village.

Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Simon allowed the appeal against last December’s judicial review on the basis that Dover District Council’s planning committee failed to give legally adequate reasons for granting permission, contrary to an officers’ recommendation which had made “trenchant criticisms” of the density, layout and design of the proposed development.

farthingloe-1 dover-farthingloe-from-mount-road-vic-030

Council planning officers had made huge efforts to mitigate the harm while ensuring the scheme was still financially viable. They recommended a reduction in the number of homes to 375 and changes to the density and design to protect the most sensitive part of the landscape. This was ignored by both the developer, China Gateway, and the planning committee.

CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury said: “This is excellent news – we have been absolutely determined to save this beautiful and historic area of countryside. The developer and planning committee knew the scale of the development – one of the largest ever proposed for an AONB – would cause severe damage but rejected all efforts to mitigate this. This case is not just important to the people of Dover but for the principles of planning law because AONBs have the highest possible level of protection.”

In his judgment, Lord Justice Laws acknowledged that it was “an unusual case” and that “the scale of the proposed development is unprecedented in an AONB”. He said: “A local planning authority which is going to authorise a development which will inflict substantial harm on an AONB must surely give substantial reasons for doing so.”

He went on to conclude: “I consider that the Committee (Dover Planning Committee) failed to give legally adequate reasons for their decision to grant planning permission.”

dover-farthingloe-vic-022 south-across-the-valley-to-site-b-from-little-farthingloe-farm-1

CPRE Kent, Natural England, the Kent Downs AONB Unit and the National Trust all opposed the decision at the time and it is astounding that the case was not called in by the Secretary of State despite the strongest advice to do so from his own advisors.

Christine Drury added: “This is exactly why CPRE is here – we will never give up on the countryside. I would like to thank our legal team, our members and everyone who supports us in our campaigning.”

view-across-valley-towards-site-b-from-field-to-north-west-2

Read the judgment here.

September 14th 2016

Seeking leave to appeal Judicial Review decision on Farthingloe

As you know CPRE Kent is challenging Dover District Council’s decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at Farthingloe.  We took our challenge to the High Court for Judicial Review on 15/16 December. The judge agreed that this was an important case, but did not accept our arguments in favour of protecting the AONB.  We are continuing to challenge this very wrong decision.

Farthingloe, photo by Vicky Ellis

Farthingloe, photo by Vicky Ellis

We have today (January 6th) applied to ask the Court of Appeal to consider the issues raised by the Farthingloe application, which the High Court acknowledged were “important”. Dover District Council’s planners recognised that the Kent Downs AONB would be seriously damaged if this development goes ahead, without any mitigation of the harm that would be caused. Planning permission was granted on the basis of a “composite” planning application which would include the housing development at Farthingloe and a contribution to work at the Western Heights Drop Redoubt. We maintain that this was unlawful, went against planning regulations and must be fought. We have decided to take this next step because protection of the Kent countryside, particularly the designated landscapes of AONBs which should be protected by law, is fundamental to our cause.

We will update further when we hear back from the Court of Appeal.

For more on the Judicial review see here and here.

January 6th 2016

Disappointment at judgement over building in AONB

High Court judge Mr Justice Mitting has rejected CPRE Kent’s grounds for Judicial Review of the decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes in the AONB at Farthingloe, Dover. But he said the charity was right to bring the case to test the planning system.
The plans at Farthingloe include 521 new houses, a 90 apartment retirement village, health facility and conversion of a farmhouse into a bed and breakfast, a thatched barn into a pub/restaurant and a stable block into a shop. All this development wopuld be on AONB land which is supposed to be protected under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).An additional 31 homes are planned at Western Heights, as well as Victoria Hall being redeveloped for nine residential units and a 130-bedroom hotel, plus converting the famous Drop Redoubt into a new museum and visitor centre.
Dover Farthingloe from Mount Road Vic 030
CPRE Kent is not opposed to the principle of new housing development in the district but this should be in the right place, not on an AONB. And we are in favour of the proposed improvements of heritage assets, but this cannot justify the destruction of the AONB.

CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport said:
“We are utterly dismayed and disappointed at the judgement. It is vital that we protect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty for future generations and to allow this intensive building at Farthingloe makes a mockery of the whole planning system which is supposed to provide the highest level of protection for AONBs. The reality, when tested through the courts, is that it has failed to protect the AONB.

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Important Judicial Review

A High Court judge will today and tomorrow consider whether the decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Dover was lawful.

We have taken the plans for Farthingloe and the Western Heights to Judicial Review in a last ditch attempt to protect this beautiful and iconic landscape.

South across the valley to site B from Little Farthingloe Farm 2

View across the valley at Farthingloe, photo Brian Lloyd

Dover District Council has granted planning permission for 521 houses and a 90 dwelling retirement village in the AONB at Farthingloe and a large hotel on the historically important Western Heights.

We have discovered that the Government’s planning experts had recommended in 2013 that the then Secretary of State for Planning Nick Boles “call in” the application because of the question mark over justification of building in the AONB.

We finally have a copy of the un-redacted letter (dated 19 June 2013) recommending this, obtained after a two year process of Freedom of Information requests.

The two statutory advice bodies, Natural England and Kent Downs AONB Unit, as well as CPRE Kent and the National Trust all requested that the outline planning permission be called in for a public inquiry. The planned development would have a major detrimental impact on the AONB, was contrary to national planning policy, was not sustainable and was not part of Dover’s agreed Development Plan.

In the advice to the Secretary of State, the planning casework officer said: “If you decide not to call-in this application, this could place the protected landscape of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at risk, leading to potential negative press coverage and reputation risk for the Government.”

There was shock and disappointment when the decision was made NOT to call in the application in July 2013. Planning permission was granted in April 2015.

“A Judicial Review is not a decision to be taken lightly,” said CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury. “But as this planning decision was so clearly wrong and so important it is now up to us to fight for the AONB through the Planning Court.  In planning law, AONB has the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty and we do not believe there are the exceptional circumstances to justify the destruction of this fantastic landscape.”

A High Court judge will consider the case for judicial review and hear the arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (December 15th and 16th).  We expect the judgement early in the New Year.

December 9th 2015