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Ruling on Heritage Quarter plan to transform Gravesend town centre due Monday

A High Court decision on the future of Gravesend town centre is due to be announced on Monday.

Judge Mr Justice Ouseley is expected to hand down his ruling on whether the Heritage Quarter plans to transform the area were handled incorrectly by Gravesham council, or to throw out the arguments made by civic society Urban Gravesham so that work can begin.

It is listed for hearing at 10.30am in Court 19 of the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, London.

How part of the Heritage Quarter will look
How part of the Heritage Quarter will look

Mr Justice Ouseley has been considering his decision since a hearing in October.

The civic society, represented by James Findlay QC, argued against the council on three grounds.

Firstly, that council officers wrongly considered the plans afresh after it had already been dealt with by councillors – who they argue are higher up the decision-making ladder.

Secondly, that those officers failed to return the matter to councillors after the circumstances surrounding plans had changed, including negotiations on the section 106 agreement which allows the council to insist the developer pay towards various “extras” such as road systems, footpaths, and other key amenities.

Thirdly, and finally, that officers failed to take account of the importance of the decision made by councillors, nor the changes in circumstances that had taken place – such as changes to the section 106 contributions promised by developer Edinburgh House.

The council, represented by Timothy Straker QC, resisted all three of these challenges, arguing that it was “common ground” to delegate powers to council officers to determine planning applications.

Another view of the proposed Heritage Quarter
Another view of the proposed Heritage Quarter

They also said that all relevant changes in circumstance – including section 106 contributions and the proposed expansion of Bluewater shopping centre – had been considered by officers.

Potential outcomes will likely either see Gravesham council found in favour and work can begin, or Urban Gravesham will be celebrating and the plans are referred back to the council. This could mean it goes back before councillors for determination.

The multi-million pound Heritage Quarter scheme includes flats, restaurants, a 50-bedroom hotel and underground car parks.

The first phase of the scheme, which takes in the area between Queen Street and High Street, was approved by Gravesham council in April 2013 and work was due to start last October.

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