High Court Judgement on Holy Cross Planning Approval
CSPPC released the following press statement on Tuesday 28th October 2014
The Parish Council is very disappointed that the High Court has upheld the original Judgment from July 2013 particularly since the action was fully supported by the village after extensive consultation and also funded in part by donations from villagers through the local campaign group SENSE. At present the Parish Council is considering the detail of the Judgment and subject to advice from its counsel may or may not issue a further statement.
The final Judgment confirms the original point raised by the Parish Council. The clearly sensible opportunity to use the Holy Cross site for mixed development, including education, was effectively closed off when Chiltern District Council indicated to the land owner that they would allow the entire Holy Cross site residential development permission prior to any consultation with the residents of the village. It was a done deal before we even knew about it.
Whilst showing sympathy for our arguments, the Judges have reached a purely technical decision in that they are satisfied that the District and County Council and Government Inspector have just about fulfilled the regulations. That does not in our view endorse the manner in which this development of this site has been foisted upon us by the planning authority.
The issue of the yawning gulf between the hearsay evidence provided by the agent for the Holy Order as to the number of playing pitches on the site and the signed affidavits of teacher’s and villagers – with accompanying photographs – was not resolved in the hearing other than through the suggestion that there was a ‘difference of opinion’. The Parish Council finds this conclusion very hard to accept given the known and provable facts of the matter.
This has been a long and unfortunate dispute given that no proper consultation regarding the change of land use on the Holy Cross site was ever undertaken with the community, either by The Holy Order or Chiltern District Council. If a consultation had been undertaken early on and the clear wishes of the community had been taken into account, before the District Council’s Core Strategy was formulated, we would not have ended up in court attempting to resolve issues that could have easily been dealt with earlier in the process.
Chalfont St Peter Parish Council was not opposed to some housing. A scheme that would have met all the requirements of the village and the District Council was clearly achievable. An opportunity to use the last available site in the middle of Chalfont St Peter has been lost: this would have enabled a mixed development in the village; combining housing, education and retail. The substantial residential development that has been approved lacks local support and will put incredible strain on existing inadequate infrastructure and facilities.
Neither Chiltern District Council nor Bucks County Council should be pleased with this result as it is a purely technical victory. The Judges noted not only the conflicting information emanating from the County Council relating to education provision but also the confused District Council planning committee meeting which was referred to by the Judge in the main hearing as “a shambles”. Likewise, the Government inspector was criticised for not answering questions put to him by the Parish Council.
Despite the judgment going against the Parish Council, there are some positive aspects. We hope that our challenge will encourage the District Council to make more effort to ensure that consultation on major changes in planning use takes place before landowners are given any hope of obtaining a change of use. In any event, the objections of the Parish Council have contributed to improvements to the final plans eventually passed by the District Council.
The District Council should work together with the community and the Parish Council in relation to any development that will have significant impact in Chalfont St Peter in future.
Chalfont St Peter Parish Council
For the full judgement please see the attached pdf document.