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Ashford council defeats legal challenge over Chart Leacon, the former Bombardier site in Beaver Lane

Ashford Borough Council has successfully defended an action in the High Court which looked to scupper plans to revive a former train depot.

The council had included the former Bombardier site in Beaver Lane, which has stood empty for more than five years, in its Local Plan.

The Chart Leacon works which was subject to a legal challenge
The Chart Leacon works which was subject to a legal challenge

In July, councillors approved plans in principle for a new light maintenance train depot at the Chart Leacon site, submitted by Network Rail.

It wanted Southeastern trains displaced from the town's Hitachi depot as a result of the £7 billion Thameslink programme to be housed at the new stabling yard.

But Bellamile Limited, owner of the site, objected to the plans.

Lawyers acting for Bellamile challenged the safeguarding of the site for railway uses for a period of up to two years, which commenced with the adoption of the Ashford Local Plan in February.

Appearing in court were representatives for the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government as an ‘interested party’ to defend the role of its inspectors in validating the borough's draft Local Plan.

Network Rail wants to bring the site back to life
Network Rail wants to bring the site back to life

One of Bellamile's argument was that the inspectors erred in concluding that the Local Plan was sound; inadequate reasons were given by the inspectors for safeguarding the site for railway uses for a period of up to two years; and the council’s decision to adopt the Local Plan was irrational.

The court rejected all of Bellamile’s claims.

Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing’s detailed dismissal of the challenge upholds the "legal integrity and soundness of the Ashford Local Plan", said council chiefs.

The court also heard that Bellamile failed to bring its claim in the time allowed and in the correct way. The judge rejected its request for an extension of time to correct its faulty procedure and went on to award the council almost £34,000 in legal costs, which has now been paid by Bellamile.

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “I am pleased that our Local Plan has withstood this examination in the courts and I want to congratulate all the staff who have worked diligently and with great skill and professionalism in preparing the Local Plan, and in defending it in court.”

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