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Canterbury City Council leader confident 4,000-home Mountfield Park will eventually be built

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The leader of Canterbury City Council is confident the district’s biggest-ever housing development will eventually be built - despite a successful legal challenge throwing the scheme into doubt.

A high court ruling last week saw the 4,000-home Mountfield Park proposal to the south of the city be stripped of its planning permission, sending project leaders back to square one.

The Mountfield Park scheme had its permission revoked last week
The Mountfield Park scheme had its permission revoked last week

But Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding believes the so-called ‘garden city’ will still become reality, as he anticipates a revised application to be given the green light.

The proposed site, which swallows up 550 acres of farmland towards Bridge, is allocated for housing in the council’s Local Plan.

The authority needs to hit a government housebuilding target of 900 new homes per year until 2031, so Mountfield Park plays an integral role in achieving those.

Cllr Fitter-Harding said: “I do believe this allocation is the right thing for our district and I’m confident it will become a reality.

“However, last week’s decision was the right one as the council should not be immune to legal tests.

Council leader Ben Fitter-Harding
Council leader Ben Fitter-Harding

“The issue which saw planning permission be revoked was a technical one which can be resolved, and it will be. It’s still a site which is in our Local Plan and has been approved by the Planning Inspectorate.

“It’s frustrating that there have been so many legal challenges to the development.

“Many of them have been largely unfounded challenges from a very, very small number of people, and each challenge ends up costing our residents an awful lot of money.

“This is another in a long list of challenges which prove to be very expensive, but for a development of this size I suppose it isn’t unusual.”

Due to the most recent challenge from New Dover resident Tom Lynch, the council itself agreed to revoke the scheme’s planning permission to avoid facing a costly judicial review it was deemed likely to lose.

An artist's impression of part of the planned Mountfield Park development
An artist's impression of part of the planned Mountfield Park development

Mr Lynch was primed to start legal proceedings against the council on three grounds - that the authority erred in law by failing to comply with its own Local Plan, failed to sufficiently assess damage to the Stodmarsh nature reserve, and did not provide financial viability assessments regarding the delivery of affordable housing.

He had permission for the case to proceed on grounds, so the council essentially conceded defeat.

“I understand the council took legal advice and it was found there were issues with the application,” Cllr Fitter-Harding said.

“Therefore, it was advised best not to defend the challenge and prevent the taxpayer paying for a legal challenge that can actually be better remedied by having a revised application.

“So a new application will be submitted which addresses the concerns, and that will be in the spring. It is really important for every resident in the district that the application is determined correctly.”

"It’s frustrating that there have been so many legal challenges to the development..."

Corinthian - the development firm behind the mammoth scheme - expects its revised application to be decided upon in “the next few months”.

It said last week: “This development is vital for Canterbury’s future – vital for the people of Canterbury, vital for the historic city centre, and vital for the sustainable future of the city.

“We are more determined than ever to create a beautiful and sustainable community, and are confident that we will be able to get going with making this wonderful new place in the new year.”

Mr Lynch says he will take advice on what action, if any, should be taken when the new application is submitted.

He added: “But only recently, the Prime Minister said he would not be allowing any more development on greenfield sites, so we can only hope he is good for his word.”

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