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Resident fails in High Court challenge to planning consent for sand and gravel extraction project

A local resident has seen all four grounds for judicial review rejected in her challenge to Shropshire Council’s planning consent for a sand and gravel extraction project.

Isabel Haden argued at the Administrative Court that Shropshire’s consent to JPE Holding to excavate aggregates at Shipley was flawed on four grounds. But in Haden, R (On the Application Of) v Shropshire Council [2020] EWHC 33 Mr Justice Stuart-Smith dismissed them all.

Ms Haden argued that Shropshire breached reg. 3(4) of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 as it failed to satisfy the legal requirements in relation to the statutory development plan, and erred in law in relation to both the Green Belt and air quality and dust.

She had been given permission by High Court judge Sir Ross Cranston to pursue these grounds but not two others, for which renewed her application for permission.

The 44.53 hectares site is agricultural land in the Green Belt from which JPE Holding wants to extract 3.5m tonnes of sand and gravel aggregate over 14 years, using about 48 return heavy goods vehicle movements each operational day.

Stuart-Smith J said the relevant officer's report could be read as accepting the evidence that the development was unlikely to have an impact in the wider environmental context and that the proposals were not likely to lead to any significant impacts in relation to groundwater and that any residual risk can be catered for by conditioning.  The Environment Agency had not objected.

“The submission that these observations meant that the council could not properly conclude that significant adverse effects were not likely is not sustainable, because that is not what the Environment Agency said,” the judge said.

“Hence there was no inherent contradiction between the position being adopted by the Environment Agency and the conclusion reached by the council on the basis of its acceptance of the applicant's evidence; and, to the extent that there was tension between the two, there was material upon which the council was entitled to rely to support its conclusion.”

He said it “It cannot reasonably be argued that the council's conclusion…was irrational or Wednesbury unreasonable”.

There was no material error in the report's approach and it was not reasonably arguable that the [planning] committee would have been materially misled by the terms in which it was presented.

“The claimant's criticism under this ground is, in my judgment, based upon an inappropriately hypercritical approach that has no proper part to play in a planning case such as this,” the judge said, agreeing with Sir Ross’s earlier conclusion that Shropshire had been “entitled to conclude that the impact of the proposal on the openness of the green belt would not be harmful when not widespread”.

He also agreed with Sir Ross that a claim for breach of the equality duty was not arguable.

Mark Smulian

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