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City council defends Planning Court challenge over permission for 400-home scheme

Canterbury City Council has defeated a number of judicial reviews brought by a local environmentalist over its decision to approve plans for a development by housebuilder Redrow.

6 Pump Court Chambers, whose Megan Thomas QC acted for the council, said applicant Camilla Swire had alleged Canterbury approved a masterplan not in accordance with a parameter plan showing access and an indicative road alignment.

But in Swire, R (On the Application Of) v Canterbury City Council [2022] EWHC 390 (Admin) Mr Justice Holgate found the words “in accordance with” in the parameter plan meant, 6 Pump Court said, “in harmony with it but they did not connote strict accordance with the plan, which was schematic and diagrammatic in nature”.

Ms Swire’s second claim was also dismissed. This had alleged the council was wrong to allow “initial earthworks” approved under a future reserved matters application to be inserted into a number of the conditions because the term was too vague.

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The court found Canterbury had control over what initial earthworks might be allowed, as they had to be the subject of a reserved matters application.

6 Pump Court said Ms Swire has five further judicial review claims on foot relating to the same site, “which are currently stayed by the court”.

A council spokesperson said: “We welcome the High Court's ruling in this case in what has become a long-running series of judicial reviews which inevitably cost the council taxpayer and consume considerable amounts of officer time and energy which would be better focused on improving the district for those that live, work and study here. They also slow, considerably, the delivery of much-needed homes.”

Redrow Homes has outline planning permission for a site in Thanington for up to 400 dwellings, 3,716 square metres of commercial space, a community building or leisure centre and associated highways infrastructure and open space.

Holgate J said in his ruling that a challenge that an assessment under the Habitats Regulations had been carried out at the wrong stage was “hopeless” because “there is no legislative objective requiring HRA to be carried out at the earliest possible stage. “Accordingly, HRA may lawfully be completed at the reserved matters stage, even if not carried out prior to the grant of outline permission.”

Ms Swire’s argument about a ‘non-material amendment’ concerning the earthworks was “untenable” the judge said.

Holgate J also dismissed as hopeless a claim that there was a conflict between the sustainable urban drainage system proposals in the masterplan and the routes shown for an existing public right of way and other proposed footpaths within the development site.

He said the masterplan was “not drawn at a detailed scale…the function of the masterplan is no different for sustainable drainage as compared with its depiction of land use areas, movement corridors (including footpaths), landscape corridors and open space.”

Holgate J said Ms Swire must “now identify without delay any free-standing issues in the five other applications for judicial review which she contends still need to be determined”.

Mark Smulian

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