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”.