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Canterbury City Council applies for review of James Brokenshire's 'irrational' decision to accept Strode Farm bid

Canterbury City Council has sought a judicial review of the Secretary of State for Housing’s “irrational” decision to approve controversial plans to build 800 homes in Herne.

Hollamby Estates originally submitted its application for Strode Farm in 2014, 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 its planning committee, the developer appealed to the independent Planning Inspectorate in December 2016.

800 homes could be built at Strode Farm (1304517)
800 homes could be built at Strode Farm (1304517)

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, approved the plans last month, despite Hollamby's pledge to contribute an amount short of the £4.581 million still outstanding for the Herne Relief Road.

In its application to the High Court last week, the council stated the decision to accept the reduced contributions for the bypass was “irrational”.

Mr Brokenshire had admitted there is "no enforceable mechanism" to ensure Section 106 payments are secured from the house builder at Hillborough for it.

The council argues the resultant “uncertainty” surrounding the funding of the Herne relief road “undermines” his “finding that such works are necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms”.

It added: “The Defendant’s [Mr Brokenshire’s] failure to ensure that the Kent Bullockstone Road Infrastructure Scheme will be delivered, in circumstances where he also considers such works necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms, renders the Decision internally inconsistent and irrational.”

The local authority will seek an order “quashing the grant of planning permission” in order for it to be re-evaluated and for it to have its legal costs reimbursed.

A CGI of the development. Picture: Hollamby Estates
A CGI of the development. Picture: Hollamby Estates

Its head of planning, Simon Thomas, said: “There is a key point of principle at stake here – the need for the right infrastructure to be provided when new homes are built.

"At Strode Farm, Bullockstone Road is woefully inadequate to serve 800 houses, and for the necessary improvements to that road not to be secured as part of the planning permission is simply unacceptable.

"To be clear, we are completely supportive of houses at this location. It is one of the main development sites in our Local Plan and the homes are desperately needed.

"But we have been left with no choice other than to take this action to secure the infrastructure to go with them. We are standing up for Herne village and fighting for the road improvements the area requires.”

In addition, it said in its letter to the High Court that Mr Brokenshire “erred in law by failing to carry out an appropriate assessment”.

Chris Crook, the development manager of Hollamby Estates, labelled the application for a judicial review “a huge gamble” and said it “smacks of sour grapes”.

“The issue we have is Canterbury is effectively threatening a site, which is identified in the Local Plan and has been through to the Secretary of State,” he said.

Chris Crook of Hollamby Estates
Chris Crook of Hollamby Estates

“How can someone, just because they’ve lost the argument, say this is irrational when there hasn’t been any new evidence or changes? It’s ludicrous.

“This, we would suggest, is a great waste of public money. The council could incur a loss of tens of thousands of pounds, if not hundreds of thousands, on this if it goes all the way to the High Court.”

Mr Crook believes the council’s application will "only" result in greater costs and delays to construction.

“I’m worried it could threaten the development because the point we should be getting on with the site will collide with Brexit,” he continued.

“We are flabbergasted that the council thinks this is appropriate behaviour.”

The council is awaiting a decision from the High Court on whether it will proceed with the judicial review.

If it does go ahead, the case will be handed to a judge.

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