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'Garden village' developer Quinn Estates braced for another legal clash with Swale council


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Swale council is squaring up for what could be another costly clash in the courts with “garden village” developer Quinn Estates.

The council has issued an update to parish councils and groups saying its legal experts have told it plans for nearly 10,000 homes at Highsted Park, south of Sittingbourne, are “not lawful” and must be resubmitted.

An artist impression of what Highsted Park will look like if given the green light. Picture: Quinn Estates
An artist impression of what Highsted Park will look like if given the green light. Picture: Quinn Estates

The development could pay for long-awaited northern and southern relief roads to ease town centre congestion and fund a second exit on the M2.

A council spokesman said: “We have taken expert evidence and issued notices seeking further information. The application is unlawful until the required information on issues such as archaeology and the impact on nationally important habitats is received.”

He added that the application for a new motorway exit should be made by a "development consent order" as it would be a “nationally significant infrastructure project” to be determined by the Secretary of State and not the local planning authority.

Developers have been told to prove the need for a new junction and must show the effect extra traffic will have on existing routes if there is no new junction or relief roads.

The council said: "The implication of this advice is that the junction should be removed from the planning application and the two current planning applications should become three. The strategic case for a new junction would need to be established before the planning applications could be determined.

An aerial view of what Highsted Park plans will look like. Picture: Quinn Estates
An aerial view of what Highsted Park plans will look like. Picture: Quinn Estates

"The council is required to ask that alternatives to, and alternative routes for, the two relief roads be considered. It is also asking for options and alternatives for the location of any new motorway junction, a no-interventions option and an option that gains access off the new junction 5 of the M2.

"This will require a new round of traffic modelling to inform consideration of strategic planning applications and the local plan, as well as meeting the concerns of Natural England."

Natural England believes air pollution from additional traffic could affect birds living along the A249 and is calling for “sites of alternative natural green space” to relieve pressure on "coastal special protection areas".

Highsted Park proposes four new primary schools, a secondary school, 520 acres of parks and outdoor space and a sports hub for Sittingbourne FC.

There would be 9,250 energy-efficient homes, of which 1,850 would be “affordable”. The project, in conjunction with two other developers, would create 80 acres of commercial space with a predicted 8,000 new jobs.

Artist's impression of what Highsted Park garden village could look like in Sittingbourne
Artist's impression of what Highsted Park garden village could look like in Sittingbourne

Swale council has already had to pay £20,000 to Quinn Estates in a legal row over plans for houses in Faversham.

Ben Geering, planning director at Quinn Estates, said the firm was surprised to see such a "dramatic" statement and noted the council had also lost an appeal to Quinn Estates over homes in Wises Lane, Borden.

He said: “Regarding the lawfulness of the application comment, while dramatic in language this is the case for any large scale planning application with a 'regulation 25' request – essentially more information is required to allow the application to be determined. We are in the process of compiling our response and this will be consulted on with local people and statutory consultees.

​“We are disappointed to see the council is referring to legal advice we received from the council’s planning department at the end of last week and had been given a period of time to respond, to, which we will do.

“The fact that Swale council has sent out a public press release on a completely standard stage of the planning application process speaks volumes for its political motivation.

Ben Geering, director of planning at Quinn Estates. Picture: Sam Lennon
Ben Geering, director of planning at Quinn Estates. Picture: Sam Lennon

“We are following the law to the letter with our applications. We have been proven right in every attempted legal challenge by Swale council.”

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