Vast Canterbury housing scheme blocked – for now
The giant ‘garden city’ planned for countryside to the south of Canterbury has been stopped in its tracks by a High Court ruling.
The 4,000-unit Mountfield Park scheme would have destroyed more than 550 acres. It was first backed by the city council in December 2016, but legal challenges delayed matters until a 7-5 vote in December to approve it by the council’s planning committee.
The decision gave developer Corinthian detailed permission for 140 homes and outline approval for another 3,860. It was claimed 30 per cent of the development would comprise affordable homes.
But on Wednesday 20 October, the council quashed its earlier decision to approve the scheme. It made the move after a judge accepted Canterbury resident Thomas Lynch’s attempt to take its approval to judicial review.
Grounds for the legal challenge
Mr Lynch launched his review bid in March this year, based on three tenets:
- The council had failed to comply with its Local Plan
- The council had failed to sufficiently assess damage to Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve
- The council had not provided financial viability assessments relating to delivery of affordable housing
High Court judge, the Honourable Mr Justice Waksman, decided Mr Lynch’s case could proceed on all three grounds. And, rather than take on the legal challenge, the city council conceded the case and agreed that planning permission should be quashed. It should be noted that the council conceded two of the grounds but not the Stodmarsh element.
Ignoring the views of residents
The council paid Mr Lynch’s legal costs. He is reported to have raised almost £30,000 from supporters in his effort to bring the review – money he says will be reimbursed once he receives the money from the council.
He told Kent Online:
“My main issue has been with the city council and its members, who steamrollered this decision through, totally ignoring the views of residents who they are supposed to represent.
I fully expect Corinthian to come back with revised plans and I will take advice at that stage on what further action, if any, we will take.”
The original planning permission for the development had lapsed last year, but it was voted through again in December.
Corinthian says it intends to submit a revised masterplan next year. A spokesman said:
“Elected councillors have now voted twice for affordable, sustainable and beautiful new homes in Canterbury, and it is disappointing to see those much-needed homes delayed again.
The application will be considered by committee for a third time in the next few months. We are confident that we will be able to get going with making this wonderful new place in the new year.
In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with residents and with Canterbury City Council, who are determined to see sustainable, affordable homes built for local people in east Kent.”
The city council took a similar tack, its spokesman Rob Davies saying:
“Following recent legal action, the planning application for the South Canterbury urban extension will be considered afresh by our planning committee. We are more determined than ever to create a beautiful and sustainable community. We expect this to be early next year.”