A long-running legal challenge to the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan was dismissed by Mr Justice Dove, in the High Court on 12th January 2018.
Owners of a backland open space in the neighbourhood area had sought judicial review of the decision of Kensington and Chelsea Council to progress the draft neighbourhood plan to its referendum. The referendum was held in February 2016, and the plan was supported by 92% of those voting, with a 23% turnout. The Council has since been applying the policies in the plan.
The Legard family of North Yorkshire, as owners of one of three sites designated in the plan as Local Green Space, joined with developers Metropolis Property Ltd mounting the legal challenge. A planning application to build 21 townhouses on the land had been previously been deemed premature by the Council, pending publication of the neighbourhood plan.
The local authority defended its decisions, with the neighbourhood forum involved as an interested party. After 5 days of hearings in the High Court, all three grounds of the claim were dismissed.
Previous posts give more background to this legal action. Our view is that the landowners at Nursery Lane (the Legard family) could have avoided the whole scenario has they responded to the initial letters which we sent to them at the end of 2013, asking to discuss the future of this former nursery garden site.
Instead they chose to partner with Metropolis Property Ltd and to work up detailed proposals for a development of 20 townhouses, without so much as a single conversation with the StQW Forum.
Subsequent decisions by both parties to ignore the recommendation of the independent examiner of the StQW Draft Plan, and the referendum result on the plan, meant that substantial legal costs were incurred – on all sides. The Council bore the brunt of costs of defending the action, and it is not yet clear whether more than a small element of their expenditure will be met by the claimants.
The Forum is very grateful to those members and local residents who contributed to fund which allowed us to retain Stephanie Hall from leading planning chambers Francis Taylor Buildings, to represent us at the High Court. The case ran for five days rather than the expected two, and Stephanie kept her fees to the modest level which we could afford, working as a Direct Access Barrister. This saves significant costs on use of a solicitor.
The Kensington Society also made two match funding contributions to our legal costs, at important moments.
The judgment is very detailed and cane be downloaded here https://t.co/5aAaft9oEQ. We hope that it will give encouragement to other neighbourhood forums and parish councils preparing neighbouring plans, who find their proposals challenged by landowners or developers.
The legal case took an unusual turn, with the claimants arguing that the level and content of correspondence between the StQW forum, the council, and the independent examiner rendered the process ‘apparently biased’ and unfair. The judgment analysed in detail the factual background to these allegations, and dismissed the three grounds of the claim.
The judge concluded that the forum had been ‘persistent’ on many issues, including some disagreements with the Council’s planning officers. We did indeed have to send many letters and emails to the Council, and previous posts on this website record why this became necessary.
As all those working on neighbourhood plans will know, it takes persistence to see these plans through to the finishing line.