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Homes plan at Thruxted Mill near Canterbury faces High Court challenge


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A legal challenge in the High Court has halted a planned housing development on the site of a former animal rendering plant.

It follows the granting of planning permission in 2018 for up to 20 homes at Thruxted Mill at Godmersham, near Canterbury, where cattle infected with BSE - known as mad cow disease - were processed.

Thruxted Mill near Canterbury
Thruxted Mill near Canterbury

There are widespread concerns the ground remains contaminated but the Secretary of State later determined an environmental impact assessment was not necessary.

Now, a High Court judge has ruled that although the minister had recognised the issue of contamination required further investigation, there was a lack of any expert evidence on relevant remediation measures and he “was not in a position to make an informed judgment”.

Ashford Borough Council has been told that before the matter can be reconsidered for planning permission, a full environmental impact assessment is required.

The government decision was challenged by local resident Camilla Swire, who said the planning permission was “flawed” and sought legal advice on the environmental aspect of the decision.

“Hopefully this clear-cut case will make a difference to planning and environmental law,” she said.

“Something does need to be done with Thruxted Mill, but the housing as proposed doesn’t make sense.”

The proposed housing development at Thruxted Mill
The proposed housing development at Thruxted Mill

Planning and environment specialist solicitor Richard Buxton, who advised Mrs Swire on the challenge, added: “This judgment is a useful ‘red line’. Too often development schemes get away with promises of assessment further down the line and in practice it is very difficult for councils to police them.

“Proper assessment before planning permission tends to lead to better development, respectful of neighbours and the natural environment”.

The plant closed more than 10 years ago, having been a blight on the local community, which complained about the smell and lorries bringing dead livestock to the site.

The derelict buildings remain an eyesore in an area of outstanding natural beauty and there is general consensus that they need demolition.

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