Judge rejects legal challenge to decision-making for distributor road serving 7,500-home scheme

A judicial review challenging Wiltshire Council's decision-making in relation to a major new distributor road serving a large-scale development project, the Future Chippenham programme, has been dismissed by a High Court judge.

In Stride, R (On the Application Of) v Wiltshire Council [2022] EWHC 1476 (Admin) (17 June 2022), Judge Jarman QC rejected all of the claimant's grounds, which included an argument that the local authority unlawfully excluded the public from part of a council meeting.

Up to 7,500 new homes will be built in Chippenham, North Wiltshire, under the plan, alongside improvements to the market town's network of roads.

The legal challenge was first lodged in October 2021 and was given permission to be heard in January of this year on the following grounds:

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  1. The public were unlawfully excluded from part of the meeting at which the decisions were made, and information was unlawfully not made public contrary to paragraph 9 of schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (the 1972 Act).
  2. The public were not consulted on the proposed development on land owned by the authority and thus in public ownership.
  3. The public were not consulted on the route of the new road as agreed at the meeting.

Save Chippenham, the resident's group behind the judicial review, has since instructed its legal team to appeal the decision.

The claimant, Helen Stride, said: “We are particularly surprised by the ruling regarding Ground 3 – The Cabinet’s failure to consult properly and meaningfully on the preferred route option.

“Determined that this must not be the end of our campaign, we have therefore instructed our barrister to apply for permission to appeal against the Judge’s decision regarding Ground 3."

She added: “Given ongoing concerns about congestion and air quality in Chippenham, the current plan will only add to both. The judge does not say that Wiltshire Council made good decisions, only that they were within their rights to decide as they did.”

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: "We are delighted that the High Court Judge has found the council's decision-making process lawfully sound and ruled in our favour.   

"Development proposed by the Future Chippenham programme will be subject to the Local Plan review and the statutory planning process. The Future Chippenham programme will follow the same rules that apply to any other land owner that wishes to propose development in Wiltshire. The recent ruling shows that the approach of the programme complies with the legislative requirement and should give the people of Chippenham confidence that they will be consulted and provided all information in relation to the programme so that they are fully informed at the appropriate time to make their views known." 

He added: "We will continue to progress with work to develop the Future Chippenham programme and prepare for a full public consultation on the proposals later in the year." 

Adam Carey

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