Published: 00:01, 15 March 2019
A campaign group protesting against a controversial seafront development say they will still consider taking the district council to the High Court, after the government decided not to intervene over the plans.
The Save Princes Parade (SPP) pressure group previously asked James Brokenshire MP, the leading minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to 'call in' the planning application for homes, shops, a hotel and a new leisure centre with swimming pool on the coastal road in Hythe.
The Secretary of State has the power to take over planning applications rather than letting a local authority decide it’s fate, usually on the basis that it conflicts with national policy in important ways, or is nationally significant.
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But in a letter addressed to Robert Allan, development management team leader at Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC), it was revealed the government would not take charge.
The note, signed off by senior planning manager, Mike Hale, said: “The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.
“The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“The Secretary of State has decided not to call in this application.
“He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.
"The reason for this decision is that, having regard to the policy on call in, the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the Secretary of State’s intervention.”
Outline planning permission for the redevelopment of Princes Parade was narrowly approved by district planning officers in August 2018 at a meeting which saw more than 200 people march around the Civic Centre beforehand.
More than 700 people formally objected the loss of green space and natural habitat, while a further 6,000 signed a petition for FHDC to scrap the plans.
But the appeal was not formally considered by FHDC, which submitted the application itself.
While FHDC claims developing the old landfill site will bring economic benefits, campaigners who have fought the project for years say the business plan is flawed and are also worried about the development’s proximity to the Royal Military Canal, a Scheduled Monument.
Last year, the SPP group started a campaign for a Judicial Review, a court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.
The group has been organising fundraising events to support the legal fees they will incur if the matter is taken further.
In recent months, the council confirmed the project would receive a £2 million grant from Home England’s Accelerated Development fund accelerate the building programme.
Additionally, the business plan for the project was approved by cabinet members in February, but the public were excluded from this part of meeting due to ‘commercially sensitive information’.
A council spokeswoman said: “We are in the process of writing an addendum to the Environmental Statement and that will need to be consulted on.
"After that, assuming no new issues are raised, the formal planning permission can be granted.”
After this time, SPP will have six weeks to request a judicial review of the decision to approve the planning permission.
Additionally, proposals to ‘stop up’ the coastal road to make way for building work will need to be approved before the development can go ahead, which may require a public inquiry.