Can you chip in to Kent Downs campaign as judicial review looms?

The countryside around the circuit is beautiful (pic WEPG)

Would you like to help campaigners in their battle to protect a swathe of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Beauty from a highly damaging development?
Wootton Environment Protection Group is challenging Dover District Council’s decision to allow Lydden Hill race circuit to increase the days it can be used from 52 days a year to 364.
The council’s backing for the circuit means people living in nearby villages such as Denton, Shepherdswell and Wootton would have to suffer further intrusive noise, toxic fumes and extreme light pollution. However, WEPG has secured a judicial review of the decision and this is likely to be heard in the High Court in April or May.
Such moves do not of course come cheaply and the group has set up a crowdfunding page to help cover the cost.
A group spokesman said: “WEPG has worked tirelessly for years to protect our natural environment. We have already raised £15,000, but we need to raise a further £10,000 to challenge this damaging decision.
“We could really do with some help in protecting our beautiful and tranquil area for generations to come from this ruthless and ill-thought-out development.”
CPRE Kent supported the campaign during its early stages. A spokesman for the countryside charity said: “What we really want is Dover District Council to take seriously the need for proper controls at the circuit and engage in proper liaison with neighbouring communities.
“The present operations at Lydden respect neither the AONB nor the neighbours and the proposals would make matters even worse without proper controls and respect.
“Sadly, the only way forward, as things stand, is through a judicial review.” 
We’ll leave the final word to the WEPG spokesman: “If you can, please donate to our campaign and share what we’re doing with your family and friends. Every penny will be so very welcomed and appreciated. All administrative costs are absorbed by our volunteers.”

  • If you would like to contribute to the Wootton Environment Protection Group as it prepares for the High Court judicial review, please click here
  • For more on the expansion of Lydden Hill race circuit, click here

Monday, March 29, 2021

Manston airport: now the DCO is set to be quashed

Manston… here we go again

Well, it was never going to go smoothly, was it!
The granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub is to be quashed.
The Department for Transport has accepted that the DCO approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, did not contain enough detail on why the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority were effectively dismissed.
The Examining Authority had been clear that the DCO should not be granted.
It is understood that its approval will be quashed within three weeks, with a revised decision needed after the Planning Inspectorate evidence is re-examined.
The likely revocation of the DCO means a judicial review of Mr Stephenson’s decision scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16-17, at the High Court will not now go ahead.
The review had been launched by Jenny Dawes, chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team.  
However, on Wednesday last week (December 2), she wrote on her CrowdJustice page set up to help fund the judicial review: “… yesterday my solicitors received a letter from the Treasury Solicitor, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, which said ‘my client has agreed to concede this claim on the basis of ground 1(b), namely that the Secretary of State did not give adequate reasons in his decision letter to enable the reader to understand why he disagreed with the Examining Authority Report on the issue of need for the development of Manston Airport’. 
“We subsequently learned that the Interested Party, RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim.
“My lawyers set out three grounds of challenge to the decision to grant a Development Consent Order for the re-opening and development of Manston Airport:
Ground 1: Need
Ground 2: Breach of Procedural Requirement/Unfairness
Ground 3: Net Zero Duty”
Two days later, Friday (December 4), Ms Dawes added: “Following the quashing of the Manston Airport Development Consent Order 2020 by the Court, the Secretary of State will write to all interested parties, setting out key issues and inviting further written representations on those issues.
“Interested parties include the applicant, the local authority and anyone who previously registered by filling out a Relevant Representation form at the inquiry stage (and had it accepted as valid).
“The Secretary of State will make a decision based on the Examining Authority’s Report and the further representations. The Secretary of State has three months to make a decision but this can be extended.
“The decision could be either a refusal to make a Manston Airport Development Consent Order or a decision to grant such a Consent Order.
“If a DCO is refused, RSP may wish to bring a judicial review. I would be an Interested Party in any such challenge.
“If a DCO is granted, another judicial review can be brought on the existing grounds and any further grounds that may arise on review of the decision letter.
“Any money left over from the current CrowdJustice campaign can be held in readiness and used towards a second judicial review.”
At the time of writing, that campaign had seen more than £88,000 pledged towards the initial review.
Responding in July to the news of the DCO approval, Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, had said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused.
“The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution.
“Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations.
“In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored.
“This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.”
Although the Manston decision had to be made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, the DfT said Mr Shapps had “not personally been involved in this decision because of a conflict of interest, following previous statements of support made prior to his appointment as the Secretary of State for Transport” and the decision had “in practice been allocated to and taken by the Minister of State for Transport, Andrew Stephenson”.

  • For more on Manston airport, see here

Monday, December 7, 2020

Judicial review of inspector’s Sevenoaks Local Plan verdict fails

Sevenoaks District Council has failed in its legal challenge against a planning inspector’s refusal to approve its Local Plan.
The local authority had brought a judicial review of inspector Karen Baker’s conclusion that it had failed to comply with the required duty to cooperate when preparing its Plan, as detailed in section 33A of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.
Sevenoaks challenged the finding on four grounds:

  • The inspector erred in law in failing to apply a margin of appreciation when considering the test under section 33A of the 2004 Act
  • The inspector failed to correctly interpret and apply the duty to cooperate, and in reality conflated that duty with the requirement that a Plan be sound
  • The inspector failed to have regard to material considerations and in particular to consider the material evidence that was placed before her
  • The inspector’s reasons were inadequate

However, in the Planning Court, Mr Justice Dove rejected the council’s challenge. The key point appears to be that the council engaged fully with neighbouring local authorities when it became clear at the Reg 18 stage that housing need could not be met, rather than as part of the whole process.
Nigel Britten, CPRE’s Sevenoaks chairman, expressed his disappointment with the outcome: “We are very concerned that the judgement will only achieve new threats to the countryside.
“It’s likely that the council will have to repeat a whole round of consultation – including the duty to cooperate – and finish up with much the same result as before.
“But in the meantime, developers will sense an opportunity and put in applications for sizeable developments in the Green Belt and AONB, claiming that the Local Plan is not up to date.
“The council says it is, but pressures from the so-called housing-need algorithm will test it to the limit.”
Peter Fleming, leader of Sevenoaks District  Council, said: “We are clearly disappointed and somewhat bemused by the ruling from the Honourable Mr Justice Dove, especially as the duty to cooperate, the reason given by the planning inspector to reject our plan, is set to be abolished in the government’s own proposed planning reforms.
“In our opinion, the removal of the duty to cooperate is an open admission that it is neither effective nor workable in the Local Plan-making process. “However, despite this, we believe we both met and exceeded the requirement. The government’s own Planning Advisory Service and a number of former senior planning inspectors also supported this position.
“Court action is never something we would enter into lightly. But our Plan reflects our communities’ priorities of protecting the rural nature of the district and the Green Belt whilst providing much-needed new homes and improved local infrastructure. We will always stand up for the communities we serve.
“We are reviewing the judgement in detail and considering our options.”
The council’s website statement added: “The existing Local Plan, with all its current protections, will continue to be used to help decide planning applications until a new Plan is agreed.”

  • For more on this story, click here

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

You have eight days to help fund Manston airport judicial review bid

Manston: the site has been contentious for years

A growing number of groups are bidding to fund a judicial review of the decision to grant a Development Consent Order for the reopening of Manston airport as a freight hub.
The decision was made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, against the Examining Authority’s recommendation that the DCO be refused due to conservation of habitats and species regulations.
Almost 850 groups and individuals have already pledged more than £57,000 to the CrowdJustice campaign to fund the judicial review. There are just eight days left to contribute – if you would like to help fund the bid, click here

  • For more on the decision to grant the DCO, click here

Friday, August 6, 2020

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”

  • For more on this story, click here

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
  • For more on this story, please see here

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.

Continue reading

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