Published: 15:33, 22 June 2020
| Updated: 15:37, 25 November 2020
A lengthy battle to save land in Hythe from being developed with houses and a new leisure centre has ended in the High Court.
The Save Princes Parade (SPP) action group launched Judicial Review (JR) last year in an attempt to stop Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) from building along the coastal road.
The project will also see Princes Parade road re-located closer to the Royal Military Canal.
In court papers for the JR, members of SPP called the decision to grant the project planning permission ‘plainly unlawful’, and cited the planning officer’s report as ‘significantly’ misleading the planning committee.
JR is a process under which executive or legislative actions are subject to review by the judiciary.
And now, following the contentious campaign, a judge has dismissed the group's claims in court.
But this is not the end - SPP are vowing to fight back and say they will appeal the judge's 'superficial' ruling.
Similarly, FHDC says it will defend its long standing position.
A spokesman for the Save Princes Parade group said: "We are very disappointed that Mr Justice Dove decided to reject our Judicial Review claim that the council’s planning permission on Princes Parade was granted unlawfully.
"The substantive hearing of the High Court was heard on March 24 under difficult circumstances resulting from Covid-19, in which the barristers presented their cases to the judge remotely from separate locations over an audio link.
"We feel the Judge got it wrong by rejecting our two principal grounds that claimed the council’s planning department had acted unlawfully in failing to identify and justify non-compliance both with their own planning policies and also with central government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
"Those grounds related to, first, loss of open space and harm to the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled ancient monument, and second, failure to conform to the NPPF and to the council’s Core Strategy policy for flood risk and wave overtopping.
"A Judicial Review has an extremely narrow focus in that it only considers whether the planning process was conducted lawfully.
"Today’s result does nothing to cancel out the many other irregularities, inconsistencies and errors that characterise the council’s hugely unpopular planning application for Prince’s Parade.
"The community at large has financed and supported this campaign over many years.
"Despite the Judge’s decision we cannot allow FHDC to continue with a scheme that would cause such fundamental damage to a protected Ancient Monument, destroy the important wildlife habitat and plant species on the site, and obliterate what are regarded as possibly the best views in the area.
"Our task now is to consider what our next steps should be to save this unique and precious site from destruction. The fight continues."
But FHDC have taken a different view.
Cllr David Monk, leader of the council, said: "We welcome the High Court's ruling which shows our planning officers not only followed the appropriate processes, but also made sound recommendations to councillors.
"Applications are always considered thoroughly before a decision is reached, so it is disappointing the professionalism of the team continues to be thrown into question.
"We are aware the claimant may decide to appeal the outcome and - if that turns out to be the case - it is our intention to defend our long-standing position."
The judge who dismissed the High Court case has also ordered the claimant - SPP - to pay £5,000 in costs to the council.
The battle to save land at Princes Parade has been hard-fought, and has been subject to years of criticism, objections and protests.
The development has also been called ecologically risky, harmful to wildlife and not financially viable.
Land around Martello Lake has been suggested as an alternative site by SPP for the much needed swimming pool in Hythe.