Published: 15:00, 13 June 2014
A multi-million pound Heritage Quarter plan for Gravesend could be on hold for six months, it has been revealed.
Work was due to begin this autumn on the £120million scheme. But campaign group Urban Gravesham made an 11th-hour decision to take Gravesham council to the High Court for a judicial review.
Work could now be held up for between three and six months if a judge agrees to hold the review over planning permission granted by the council last April.
Gravesham council leader Cllr John Burden described Urban Gravesham's decision as "devastating".
He said: "We will now need to wait for the judge to see if the case has any substance and whether he wants to hear it.
"He could just discard it or he could hear the case. This will take up to two or three weeks.
"The effect of what has been done here is putting us in a very difficult position over Marks & Spencer. I'm due to meet with them next week and I was going to say that we had a bright future and work on the Heritage Quarter was due to start in the autumn - now all of that is on hold.
"This is bad news for the borough and it could be devastating.
"We've got an exciting future that has now been damaged by Urban Gravesham. This was done on the last day of a six-week period, they could have done it at anytime up until then..." - Gravesham council leader Cllr John Burden
"We've got an exciting future that has now been damaged by Urban Gravesham. This was done on the last day of a six-week period, they could have done it at anytime up until then."
It was Urban Gravesham's last opportunity to halt the plans as it came to the end of a six-week deadline following an agreement on millions of pounds worth of Section 106 funding for the project.
Gravesham's civic society accused the council of "selling Gravesend down the river", claiming leaked documents revealed cash promised by developers was less than originally thought.
The Section 106 details the money that will be paid by developers towards infrastructure, such as affordable housing, roads, parking and public amenities.
Cllr Burden added: "The decision is now in the legal system and I wouldn't want to judge or second guess what will happen. I hope that it will be thrown out. I believe it has no substance."
The first phase of building was to see three buildings with 141 flats, restaurants, a 50-bedroom hotel and underground car parks built within nine months.
A new town square will be built over the car park next to the market off Queen Street.
Parking will be moved underground and flats will be built above what is likely be restaurants, such as Nando's and Pizza Express.
This phase will see the closure of the Horn Yard and Market Square car parks with the loss of more than 200 parking spaces.
Nine months to a year after phase one starts, a detailed application for the second phase will be made which includes redesigned grounds for St George's Church, a church hall fronting West Street, and the St George’s Shopping Centre enlarged.
Over the next six weeks, a judge will examine Urban Gravesham's claim and decide if to pursue a full review.
A judicial review challenges the lawfulness of decisions of public authorities, with the court offering a supervisory role in making sure the decision maker acts lawfully.
Should it find fault, the original planning permission is quashed.
Plans would then have to go before the council again for another vote by councillors.
It comes as M&S last week revealed it plans to pull its store from Gravesend.
Gravesham council said it had been discussing the issue with the chain in a bid to convince them to stay.
Any thoughts of carrying out a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the building have been ruled out by the council.
If the council wants to acquire land or a building to carry out work for the benefit of the public, they can apply for a CPO.
This can be done without the permission of the land or building owner, in this case, M&S itself.
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