Before the meeting, a number of NANT supporters formed an extremely well mannered (as always) demonstration to greet the councillors as they arrived. We were happily chatting in the sunshine when the local police arrived. They had received a call asking them to attend because of our demo! It’s flattering in a way that whoever made the call thought that we presented such a threat!!! Here is our report on the proceedings.
As you know, SCDC met yesterday to vote on the Core Strategy. This is intended to be a 15 year strategic plan for the district. However, for reasons that have not been explained satisfactorily, it contains one site-specific housing allocation of 2000 houses at BT Martlesham.
NANT’s solicitor, Richard Buxton has informed the council that it has made fundamental errors and, amongst other things, that it has failed to comply with EU procedures under the environmental and habitat regulations.
At the meeting these points were recognised by a significant number of councillors, and substantiated by some who had been involved directly in the decision to choose the BT site, initially for 1000 houses, later to be increased to 2000. These decisions were made without the correct level of environmental information required by the EU regulations.
It is perhaps worth remembering that BT was already preparing its planning application for 2000 houses at the time that this site-specific allocation at BT (the only one for the entire district) was being pushed through by certain members of the Council.
Cllr John Kelso proposed a resolution that the council should undertake the appropriate environmental assessments on all the strategic locations for the East of Ipswich allocation options. This action would have satisfied NANT and would have therefore removed the need to go to Judicial Review, thus avoiding exposing SCDC to anticipated legal costs of many thousands of £s. Hilary Slater told the councillors that the cost would be around £1500!
The resolution was defeated and the council then went on to vote to continue the progress of the Draft Core Strategy in its present form. However, the Planning Portfolio holder, Cllr. Smith was forced to admit that the draft core strategy could not be “adopted as interim planning policy” something that he had fought hard on previous occasions to steamroller through. This was another climb-down in response to NANT’s solicitor.
We find it extraordinary that SCDC, when offered the opportunity to rectify its failings at relatively low cost and delay, voted to follow a course of action that will result in much longer delays and add such significant costs to the council taxpayer.
If this was some small procedural flaw, we could perhaps ignore it. However, the council’s lack of compliance with the EU regulations has led them to put at risk the Deben Estuary and the surrounding AONB. We will now be having further discussions with our solicitor and barrister to agree the timing of our application for judicial review, a course of action that seems now to be inevitable.