Council chooses to halt 4000-home development rather than fight judicial review

Canterbury City Council has chosen to concede in a case concerning a controversial 4,000-home estate rather than fight a judicial review challenge that recently won approval to be heard.

The scheme, which would have seen thousands of new homes, two new schools, and a number of other community facilities built in Mountfield Park to the south of Canterbury was granted planning permission in 2016.

Construction was initially stalled after two local residents brought legal proceedings on environmental pollution grounds. However, consent was eventually re-granted in February this year.

But the High Court delivered a second blow after it gave permission for a separate judicial review to be heard.

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Tom Lynch, who lives opposite to the site, lodged the follow-up challenge in March 2021.

A High Court Judge, Mr Justice Waksman, granted permission for Mr Lynch's case to proceed on the following three grounds:

  1. The city council erred in law because it failed to understand and comply with policies in its own local plan protecting the long-term vitality and viability of the city centre, and it approved additional large out-of-town development at Mountfield Park that is not in the local plan.
  2. The city council failed to apply the correct approach to assessing the effects of the development on Stodmarsh, an internationally-protected wetland, under Habitats Regulations, or it acted irrationally by granting permission without giving any reasons for departing from Natural England's policy about the use of package treatment plants ('PTPs') (sewage treatment plants for individual sites, separate from a main sewage works).
  3. The council erred in law because it did not provide or publish the 2016 financial viability assessments about the delivery of affordable housing within Mountfield Park, as requested by local residents.

Following Judge Waksman's decision to grant permission for Mr Lynch's case, the local authority conceded and agreed that the planning permission should be quashed. The council is reported to have agreed that it had erred in terms of points 1 and 3 of Mr Lynch’s case, but point 2 was not conceded.

However, a spokesperson for the council said Canterbury's Planning Committee intends to consider the application afresh early next year.

Alongside quashing the planning permission, Canterbury also agreed to pay Mr Lynch's legal costs of the case. The agreement was included in a consent order approved by the Court on 20 October 2021.

Corinthian Land, the developer behind the project, affirmed its continued support for the scheme.

A spokesperson for the developer said it "will continue to work closely with residents and with Canterbury City Council, who are determined to see sustainable, affordable homes built for local people in east Kent".

The spokesperson added: "We are more determined than ever to create a beautiful and sustainable community, and are confident that we will be able to get going with making this wonderful new place in the New Year."

Adam Carey

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