Published: 12:00, 06 February 2017
A referendum on the future of Faversham Creek may finally be able to go ahead after a ruling in London’s High Court.
One of the country’s top judges, Justice Dove, has dismissed a challenge by developers to a planning inspector’s ruling that blocked residential development at Swan Quay.
The referendum for the Creek Neighbourhood Plan was meant to go ahead in October but the action taken by the landowners postponed it, along with the construction of the swing bridge.
The inspector’s decision to stop development in the quay came after conservation group Historic England and local campaigners argued that any residential development would lead to ‘gentrification’ of the area and would be “harmful to the historic character of the Creek”.
But Swan Quay LLP’s lawyers said that the inspector was not entitled to take the stance he did.
The inspector had been called in to approve the development plan for the area. He approved it but sided with the conservationists and wrote in the ban on residential development.
Deputy leader of Swale Borough Council Cllr Gerry Lewin said: “We are pleased that the High Court appeal by Swan Quay LLP relating to the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan was dismissed.
“There is now a period in which Swan Quay LLP may seek to appeal. Until that has expired, we will not be taking any further steps.
“After the appeal period has expired, the borough council will start to plan for the required referendum, with the date being advised when known.”
The appeal period is 21 days.
Swan Quay LLP had argued when the case was heard earlier this month that the judge should revert to the wording of Faversham Town Council’s draft Neighbourhood Plan as approved by Swale Borough Council, which allowed for residential use.
However, Justice Dove has now ruled that the inspector had explained his reasons for imposing the ban, and that his decision had been a clear exercise of ‘planning judgment’.
He refused Swan Quay LLP’s request for the ban on residential development to be removed from the development plan before it goes to a local referendum.
He said that while the term ‘gentrification’ was not an official planning use term, it did not need to be. The inspector could take into account its meaning as ‘erosion’ of traditional uses by the introduction of “historically unprecedented and inconsistent use that would bring with it a different aesthetic which would harm the historic character”.
Swale Council had said last year that it would only contribute £200,000 to the Creek’s swing bridge fund if the plan was approved, which meant the case was a set-back for the bridge too.
Faversham Creek Trust chairman Sue Akhurst said: “The Faversham Creek Trust is very grateful to Mr Justice Dove for his careful consideration of the opposing views regarding the development of Swan Quay, and for his decision to dismiss the appeal.
“This clears the way for Swale to take the Neighbourhood Plan to referendum. If it is approved, then the swing bridge can go ahead.
“We hope that generations to come will be able to enjoy this attractive collection of industrial buildings, ancient, old and modern, which so well reflect the character of Faversham as a town and a Cinque Port limb.”
On behalf of Swan Quay LLP, Jeanne Taylor said: “My clients are naturally disappointed following the judgment and will now review their options.
“They are also disappointed that Swan Quay cannot now benefit from the regeneration that, no doubt, other nearby sites will enjoy.”
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