Published: 11:01, 05 August 2014
A High Court judge has granted Urban Gravesham’s claim for a judicial review - though has rejected other claims.
Mr Justice Lewis rejected claims that council officers were “driving forward their own agenda” when they issued planning consent for the Heritage Quarter.
He also said Urban Gravesham's claim in their application for judicial review of the planning process were “not arguable”.
He said: “There is nothing to indicate that process was perverse, unfair and unreasonable.”
The judicial review, which is thought to have already cost the Gravesham taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds, challenges the lawfulness of decisions of public authorities, with the court offering a supervisory role in making sure the decision maker acts lawfully.
Mr Justice Lewis judge has, however, granted a one-day hearing for arguments on other claims made including whether the final decision was beyond the power of the planning department and whether all material changes to circumstances were taken into account.
He also rejected Urban Gravesham’s claim that there was an expectation that the decision would go back to the regulatory board after the Section 106 agreement was concluded.
Deputy council leader Lee Croxton, and lead member for planning and the environment said: “Urban Gravesham is now left clutching at legal straws while continuing to cause delays to the desperately-needed regeneration of the town centre.
“Their eye-catching but scurrilous claim that council officers and members were somehow following some personal agenda has been humiliatingly rejected.
“The council will contest the remaining claims if Urban Gravesham decides to press on with its case. In the light of the Local Plan Core Strategy now going ahead, there can be even less chance that the Heritage Quarter decision would be changed.
“It has taken more than a decade of negotiation and planning to get to the position where the work could begin yet it is being delayed by an unrepresentative, unelected group of litigation-minded Luddites.
"Meanwhile those who care for the future of the town remain shocked onlookers at the delays.”
The multimillion-pound Heritage Quarter scheme – which includes flats, restaurants, a 50-bedroom hotel and underground car parks – was referred to a judge by civic society Urban Gravesham.
The first phase of the scheme, which takes in the area between Queen Street and High Street, was approved by Gravesham council in April 2013 and work was due to start this October.
A spokesman for Urban Gravesham expressed “great satisfaction” that the judge had granted permission for three of the five grounds of challenge to proceed.
The UG spokesman said: “Today’s decision will be welcomed by the majority of Gravesend people who opposed this hated a disastrous scheme.
“It means that the claim now proceeds to a full hearing where the illegality of the council’s decision to grant planning permission will be questioned before an independent High Court judge.
“The council’s continuing refusal to allow elected members to reconsider the application is the reason why this matter has to go to court.
“They could settle it now with little further expense if they would simply agree to the decision being quashed and take it back before the elected members of the council for reconsideration.”
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