Challenging the big boys when it comes to planning

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A multi-disciplinary team at Ashtons Legal have today assisted Thurston Parish Council in bringing judicial review proceedings against Mid Suffolk District Council.

These proceedings challenge the grant of planning permission for the land to the south of Beyton Road in Thurston, Suffolk for the erection of up to 210 dwellings and the creation of open space and associated infrastructure which includes junction improvements. The application was considered at a Mid Suffolk District Council committee meeting on 29th January 2020 but planning permission was not issued until 11 months later, on 23rd December 2020.

When the planning application was first considered, Thurston Parish Council appointed Bob McGeady, a consultant at Ashtons Legal who specialises in planning and local government-related matters, to advise on concerns relating to how the application had been determined and the advice that had been given to members. In particular, the weight that should be given to the Neighbourhood Development Plan that had been adopted in October 2019. In conjunction with Meyric Lewis of FTB Chambers (a specialist planning chambers), Ashtons Legal invited Mid Suffolk District Council to reconsider its decision and to remedy the defects in its decision making but they declined to do so. In turn, Thurston Parish Council had to wait until the planning permission was issued before issuing the judicial review proceedings.

The application for judicial review identifies a number of defects relating to Mid Suffolk District Council’s decision making, including members being wrongly advised by officers on the weight to be accorded to the Neighbourhood Development Plan. Members were also wrongly advised about the risks of refusing permission and in particular, the potential costs of dealing with an appeal and the consequence of granting permission on the Bloor Homes application would be to prejudice the as yet unconcluded Local Plan making process.

Victoria Waples, Clerk to Thurston Parish Council says: “The village of Thurston has been the subject of a great deal of development pressure in recent years, with planning permission granted in 2017 on five sites outside the then settlement boundary, for a total of 818 new dwellings.  The total existing number of dwellings in the village at present is only a little over 1,300”.

“The Thurston Neighbourhood Plan that was adopted in October 2019 sought to restrict development to keep it within the current village boundary, giving the new development time to be assimilated. The Parish Council has consistently objected to the District Council’s proposed strategy for the village as the local plan has been developed”.

Victoria adds: “We feel that the strategy should be properly tested as part of the local plan examination. By granting planning permission for this site the District Council was seeking to undermine that process. We have therefore taken this action to ensure that the Local Plan process takes its proper course”.

Bob McGeady of Ashtons Legal said: “I have seen too often circumstances where larger Councils look to dominate the planning process, to the detriment of small, local parish councils. This is one such example so to be able to help Thurston Parish Council is something I am glad to have been involved in. A judge will now decide whether or not the proceedings should proceed to trial. Another challenge on similar grounds relating to a site in Woolpit was recently given the go-ahead to proceed to trial so we are hopeful of a positive outcome in this case”.


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