Various actions have been taking place since the last update but the ongoing legal process has been rather like trudging through treacle. Here is a brief summary of the last 12 months.
- Our case was heard by the Court of Appeal but its ruling in February last year went against us, even though the judges agreed that there were two instances of unlawful conduct at critical stages in Suffolk Coastal’s decision-making process.
- We had succeeded in the High Court in establishing that SCDC’s process of selecting the Adastral site was unlawful under the EU Habitat and Environmental Directives. By the time the matter reached the Court of Appeal the Council also accepted that the “consultation” to double the number of houses on the site to 2000 was also unlawful. Nonetheless the Court of Appeal held that despite these serious failures of process, later consultation was sufficient to retrospectively legitimise the Council’s choice. This is difficult to accept as SCDC has refused to revisit the decisions that were informed by this unlawful conduct.
- On the advice of our lawyer, Richard Buxton, we then sought permission from the Supreme Court for our case to be heard there. In May we were informed that our application for permission had been refused.
- Richard was “profoundly concerned at the way the Courts have dealt with the requirements of EU law” with reference to ours, and other recent cases. In September he advised us to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision and to seek again permission for our case to be heard.
- We have now been informed that the Supreme Court will not give us permission. This means that we have explored every aspect of the English legal process and have exhausted all possible options.
- However, Richard feels very strongly that the matter should not end here. He is therefore examining the various avenues open to us via Europe. We will of course let you know if there are any further developments.
In the meantime, thank you very much for your support. Whilst we have not persuaded the courts to quash the relevant policies in SCDC’s Core Strategy, the courts did confirm that Suffolk Coastal’s actions when selecting the BT site and, when doubling the housing allocation to 2000, were unlawful. It remains to be seen if this prompts SCDC to act more responsibly in its future decision-making.
The EADT has recently carried several articles regarding Housing Development in the areas around Martlesham, Woodbridge and Kesgrave. The quotations from District Councillors Holdcroft and Smith indicate that these councillors are suffering from significant short-term memory loss. If not, then the only conclusion is that they are displaying rank hypocrisy and double standards.
The EADT 25/2/16 reported that Cllrs Holdcroft and Smith decided to defer a decision on a planning application for 300 houses to the south of Kesgrave, to “enable planners to meet the developers with a view to increasing the housing numbers to 1000”.
This completely contradicts their previous decision to reject this precise location as a site for an allocation of 1050 houses, choosing instead the BT Adastral Park site. The reasons for that rejection included “The close proximity of Foxhall Stadium to this area would likely cause significant noise issues on part of the site and would not be a good neighbour”.
The Foxhall Stadium is still in the same location but Cllr Smith now says that 1000 houses would be sustainable at the site, and Holdcroft now says, “building 1,000 or more homes on the land would be the best way to create a vibrant community”
It is worth remembering that after 1050 houses had been allocated to BT Adastral Park, these same councillors very quickly decided to increase the number to 2000 because “1050 was not sufficient to create a sustainable community”. It would appear that SCDC is now actively seeking to increase the number of new houses in the East of Ipswich Area from the original 1000, to in excess of 3500.
Neither councillor seems to have any concerns about the coalescence of Kesgrave, Grange Farm and Martlesham Heath along with the proposed BT Adastral Park development, which would then form a continuous urban sprawl from Ipswich to the Deben Estuary.
However, when an application for 215 houses is within Cllr Holdcroft’s own electoral ward he votes against it on the grounds that “This field and the adjoining field are the last bastions between the coalescence of Woodbridge and Martlesham and neither of us wants coalescence of these neighbourhoods”. EADT 26/2/16
Holdcroft also said that although the land (in his ward) was “economically and socially sustainable as a housing site, the environmental impact (on the Deben SPA) was not acceptable”.
He is probably correct but nonetheless his statement is very odd. Cllr Holdcroft was happy to disregard the environmental impact that 2000 houses at BT Adastral Park (not in his electoral ward) will have the Deben Estuary SPA and yet is so exercised by the possible impact of 200 houses when they are in his own ward. Some might say that personal interest is at work here – we couldn’t possibly comment.
And finally, in the EADT article of 27/2/16, regarding the planning application for 2000 houses at BT Adastral Park. SCDC stated “The developers are looking to start building homes on the site in the first quarter of 2018. Adastral Park is now moving forward”.
The 2009 planning application has not been determined and is now considerably out of date. There is no reference to a new planning application from BT on the SCDC website so it would appear that BT has yet to submit a relevant application, never mind receive approval. It seems somewhat premature therefore to be predetermining when the building is going to start.
NANT’s legal advisers say that “the domestic courts were in breach of obligations under EU law in relation to the way they dealt with our case, in particular failed to refer it to the European Court of Justice, and we are making a formal complaint to the European Commission along those lines”.
Campaigners who fought proposals for 2,000 new homes at BT’s Adastral Park site are preparing to lodge a formal complaint to the European Commission. See full article.
Moves to build 2,000 new homes at BT’s Adastral Park site have kick-started into action – and developers believe work on the first properties could begin in early 2018. More……
We are very disappointed that the Court of Appeal has turned down No Adastral New Town’s (NANT’s) appeal concerning the allocation of 2000 houses at BT’s Adastral Park site at Martlesham as part of Suffolk Coastal District Council’s core strategy.
NANT had succeeded in the High Court in establishing that SCDC’s process of selecting the Adastral site was unlawful.
By the time the matter reached the Court of Appeal the Council accepted that the “consultation” to double the number of houses on the site to 2000 was also unlawful.
Nonetheless the Court held that despite these failures of process, later consultation was sufficient to legitimise the Council’s choice.
It is hard to understand how the courts can allow a Council to get away with such a sloppy process. SCDC made its selection of the BT site based on an unlawful process and without the necessary evidence base. It then closed its mind and refused to consider any of the other options despite the mounting evidence against the BT site and the flaws in the Council’s methods, identified by NANT and substantiated by the court. The Council chose to bury its head in the sand rather than accept it had made a mistake and genuinely seek to address it.
This is a major disappointment and we will consider whether we should try and take this to the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeal accepted that there had been no recognition of the Deben Estuary as an internationally important wildlife site until after the BT site had been selected as the preferred option. But the Court nevertheless said that there was no requirement to have assessed this at an earlier stage than was done. NANT also argued that the Council’s approach to mitigation of the impact of the housing did not comply with EU law.
Richard Buxton, NANT’s solicitor, said “the case raises serious issues about due process in both domestic and EU environmental law. I find it hard to see how what Suffolk Coastal District Council did – or did not do – here can stand. It is particularly surprising that the Court did not adopt a purposeful approach to interpretation of the rules relating to areas like the Deben – that proposals like these which Natural England later advised would have “particularly negative impacts” on this site, one of a network of specially designated areas and recognised as jewels in the crown of the country’s wildlife sites, should be examined at the earliest possible stage, not when the preferred housing area has already been chosen”.
Interesting EADT article about Framlingham housing read here.
Coverage of our case plus Yoxford where SCDC are refusing permission for 26 homes. See here.
August 8th 2014: Campaigners accused of hindering the planning system in east Suffolk by engaging in a long-running legal battle with the district council over housing have insisted they are not attempting to “sabotage” the authority. Read the full text in the EADT