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800 homes on the way in Herne as Canterbury City Council loses Strode Farm court battle

Contentious plans to build 800 homes in Herne have moved a step closer after the High Court upheld a decision to approve the proposals.

Canterbury City Council sought a judicial review after the Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire, granted Hollamby Estates’ application for Strode Farm last August.

In its application to the High Court, the authority labelled the decision “irrational” as it meant the developer would contribute £2.3m towards the Bullockstone Road Improvement Scheme, instead of the desired £4.58m still outstanding for the project.

An artist's impression showing how the development could look (10357981)
An artist's impression showing how the development could look (10357981)

It is hoped Taylor Wimpey, the developer planning to erect 900 homes in Hillborough, will cover the rest of the costs for the £7.7m scheme.

However, Mr Brokenshire noted in his decision that there is “no enforceable mechanism” to ensure the Section 106 payments will be secured.

Representing the city council at the High Court, James Pereira QC branded it “an open-ended risk”, arguing that it was “wholly unjustifiable” for the minister to grant planning permission for the site. But Justice Ian Dove concluded he was “entirely satisfied” with Mr Brokenshire’s decision.

Strode Farm. Picture: Martin Apps.
Strode Farm. Picture: Martin Apps.

Chris Crook, from Hollamby Estates, says the Secretary of State’s barrister had branded the council’s stance “suicidally perverse” during his opening remarks at the High Court.

But council spokesman Rob Davies says the authority was trying to demonstrate that it will not “be bullied into accepting something substandard”.

Mr Davies added: “This decision means Hollamby Estates will be loading hundreds of new homes onto Herne without having to provide a road network that will meet the demand. If anything is perverse, it’s this.

“Taken alongside the developer’s previous attempts to provide just four per cent affordable housing across the site, which we successfully overturned, it’s crystal clear to us that Hollamby Estates’ priority would seem to be profit, rather than acting as a responsible housebuilder in the local community.

“This, coupled with the Secretary of State’s decision not to support the council, means we will now have to look to the developers of other housing sites in the area in order to secure the funding to provide the roads that are needed.”

Mr Davies has also confirmed the authority will not be appealing the High Court decision.

This means the council will be liable to pay the Secretary of State’s legal costs, in addition to its own £30,500 fees.

Chris Crook. Picture: Tony Flashman.
Chris Crook. Picture: Tony Flashman.

Reacting to the decision, Mr Crook said Hollamby will have to submit a number of detailed planning applications before work can start on the site. He estimates this will take at least 18 months.

“Hopefully it means we can move on,” he added.

“Come June, it’ll be five years since the application was submitted, which is atrocious. There should be houses coming out of the ground, just as they are at the golf course.

“I just think this has been shameful because it’s only delayed the delivery of new homes – both affordable and market sale.”

The end to a four-year saga

The High Court’s decision appears to have ended a saga that has been running for the last four years.

Hollamby Estates originally submitted its application for Strode Farm in 2015, but concerns raised by the local authority about affordable housing and road improvements stalled the project.

After the deadline passed for the council to put the scheme before the planning committee, Hollamby appealed to the independent Planning Inspectorate in December 2016, using the “non-determination” rule.

A picture of how the development could look (10348878)
A picture of how the development could look (10348878)

The inspector handed the case to the then-Secretary of State for Housing, Sajid Javid, recommending he refuse it.

James Brokenshire, who succeeded Mr Javid in April 2018, approved the plans last August, despite Hollamby’s pledge to contribute an amount short of the £4.581 million still outstanding for the work along Bullockstone Road.

The Secretary of State had admitted there is “no enforceable mechanism” to ensure Section 106 payments are secured from the house builder at Hillborough for the road improvements.

Herne and Broomfield Parish Council’s vice chairman Carol Davis says without the works Herne will be gridlocked.

“We are very disappointed with the High Court decision as it puts the Bullockstone Road scheme in jeopardy,” she said.

“It rides roughshod over the local people as there will be so much more traffic.

“We are probably talking about 1,600 more cars from Strode Farm alone. Bullockstone Road is very narrow and if it isn’t improved there will be more accidents along it.”

The improvements to the route will tackle expected increases to the levels of traffic in Herne from the developments at Strode Farm, Hillborough and Greenhill.

Kent County Council is planning to widen the carriageway, install a shared footpath and cycleway and extend the 40mph limit along Bullockstone Road.

Roundabouts at the junctions between Bullockstone Road and Canterbury Road and the thoroughfare running through the planned Strode Farm development are also proposed.

What do you think? Email hernebaygazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

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