Published: 11:15, 06 December 2017
Plans to build more than 600 homes on a beauty spot have been quashed by the Supreme Court.
The court today agreed with an earlier Appeal Court decision not to build on Farthingloe Valley near Dover.
The case had been brought by Dover District Council in October , with developers China Gateway International, after the Appeal Court last year ruled against its decision to grant planning permission.
The Supreme Court also ruled that the council’s planning committee did not give legally adequate reasons for planning permission on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It believed that the scheme would cause significant harm in a protected landscape.
This announcement comes after DDC took the case to the Supreme Court in October but was challenged by CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England) Kent.
CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport said: “This is the best possible news. We have been absolutely determined to save this beautiful and iconic area of countryside.
“Such significant harm to the AONB cannot be justified purely for economic benefit. This case is not just important to the people of Dover but for the principles of planning law.
“AONBs merit the highest possible level of protection. This judgment confirms that not only was the decision flawed, but so was the planning committee’s decision-making process.”
The campaign group had won its case in the Court of Appeal in September 2016 to stop the development.
When the scheme first went before the council, officers had recommended just 375 homes and wanted less density.
But the planning committee disagreed and granted permission for the 600-plus homes.
The application was specifically for 521 homes and a 90-apartment retirement village.
Kristina Kenworthy of CPRE Kent’s solicitors Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law said: “This decision brings much needed clarity to the need for public authorities to give reasons for their decisions.
“The Supreme Court has confirmed that planning is not a special case.
"The need for transparency and scrutiny means that people are entitled to know what has been decided and why, and if necessary enable effective recourse to the courts.
"This decision should lead to more rigour, better planning – and less argument.”
CPRE Kent chairman Christine Drury said: “We will never give up on our countryside.
"This was a really bad proposal, which the planning officer tried hard to improve and it should never have received permission.
"I would like to thank our legal team, our volunteers, our members and everyone who support us in protecting our countryside.”
But Dover MP Charlie Elphicke reacted to the news with dismay.
He said: “I am deeply disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court.
“Everyone knows we need more housing. Yet out-of-touch campaign groups like the CPRE are determined to do all they can to stop the homes we need getting built.
“The CPRE should listen to the young people of Dover, who desperately want new homes and stop undermining their hopes and aspirations of a better future.
“Everyone wants more investment in Dover.
"This project would have brought investment for what could be an outstanding tourist attraction at the Drop Redoubt and Western Heights, creating more jobs.
“We must put the future of our young people ahead of unelected, anti-democratic campaign groups.”
Richard Knox-Johnston, chairman of CPRE Kent, countered: "CPRE is very much aware that we need housing especially for young people and first time buyers but the development should be in the right places and of the right sort of housing.
"An AONB is not the right place and this is clarified in the Supreme Court ruling.
"The houses suggested in the application would be in the range of £500,000 to £600,000 well beyond the price range of the young people in Dover.
"There should be much more affordable housing built.
"We trust that Charlie Elphicke will join with CPRE in supporting government initiatives to ensure that there is housing built in Dover and elsewhere which can be in the price bracket of young people.2
A Dover District Council spokesman said: “This is a lengthy and complex judgment and we are currently considering its implications.
“The judgment affirms the decision of the Court of Appeal (14 September 2016) and the planning permission remains quashed.
“Notwithstanding the decision of the Supreme Court, the underlying planning application remains live.
"Notwithstanding the decision of the Supreme Court, the underlying planning application remains live..." - Dover District Council
"The application, or an amended version of it, could be considered again by Dover District Council’s planning committee.
“The council will discuss the redetermination of the application with the applicant.”
Today's ruling was the final legal step from the time CPRE Kent first took this to the High Court in December 2015.
It brought a claim for judicial review of the planning decision on several grounds, including that the planning committee had not provided adequate reasons for its decision.
The claim was dismissed at the High Court in the first instance but allowed to go to the Court of Appeal.
It was the decision of the Court of Appeal in September 2016,which was appealed to the Supreme Court by Dover District Council and CGI Ltd.
Today's Supreme Court ruling was made unanimously by Lord Carnwath, Lady Hale, Lord Wilson, Lady Black and Lord Lloyd-Jones.
Their judgement said: “This is a case where the defect in reasons goes to the heart of the justification for permission and undermines its validity.
“The only appropriate remedy is to quash the permission.”
Rob Prince, spokesman for developer China Gateway International, which jointly brought the case to the Supreme Court with the district council, said: "We are obviously sad to learn of the Supreme Court judgement announced today.
"The decision reached by the Supreme Court was taken on procedure, rather than on the substance or quality of the decision reached by Dover District Council.
"We will consider the Supreme Court judgement in detail and decide which direction to take in due course".
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