South Cambs District Council planning decision quashed by High Court over unlawful public consultation

PUBLISHED: 16:45 15 May 2020 | UPDATED: 19:29 15 May 2020

The High Court has ruled SCDC have been unlawful. Picture: Archant

The High Court has ruled SCDC have been unlawful. Picture: Archant

Archant

A community action group has prevailed in the first of two judicial review claims involving the conduct of South Cambridgeshire District Council.

The High Court has issued an order quashing a 2019 planning decision of the district council after a successful judicial review was brought by a group of Longstanton residents over the unlawful manner in which the council carried out a public consultation concerning a proposed residential development in the village.

The Fews Lane Consortium filed the judicial review after the district council told the group that they had until November 4, 2019, to submit representations on a surface water drainage proposal but then issued a final decision notice approving the development on October 28, 2019, before the group had a chance to submit representations as promised.

READ MORE: South Cambridgeshire council faces High Court challenges from community action group

According to the court’s order, issued by consent, the council acted unlawfully and in breach of the consortium’s legitimate expectation that it could comment on the proposal.

The court also ordered the council to pay all of the consortium’s legal costs associated with the claim.

Daniel Fulton, who has led the FLC’s litigation efforts, said: “For years the South Cambridgeshire District Council has failed to carry out public consultations in a lawful manner and has failed to meaningfully take into account representations received. The High Court has now put the council on notice that its approach to public consultations was and is unlawful.”

“The council argued in its submissions to the court that the public had no right to respond to public consultations and the council had no obligation to take into account material representations received. As the court’s order makes clear, this approach to public consultations is plainly unlawful and is wholly incompatible with adequate standards of public administration.”

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“Residents should be able to have confidence that their local council will determine planning applications in a fair and lawful manner and that their representations will be meaningfully taken into account. It’s sad that local residents from Longstanton were forced to go to the High Court in London in order to get a fair planning decision from their own local council.”

READ MORE: Third judicial review against South Cambridgeshire District Council after alleged changes to constitution

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s lead cabinet member for planning, Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins, said: “Our Planning Service receives around 4,500 planning applications each year and the High Court is very clear that this ruling relates to a single one.

“We were not legally obliged to consult with Mr Fulton on the discharge of two conditions on this application. However, as we gave Mr Fulton the impression that he could take part in this consultation, we should have allowed him to submit comments before making a decision. We hold our hands up about this mistake and following the court’s initial view, we agreed to settle this case without any need for it to be examined further. We’ll now re-assess the application so that Mr Fulton can have his say.”

Anyone who wishes to view the application should go to https://applications.greatercambridgeplanning.org/online-applications and use the reference S/3215/19/DC. Comments can be sent to planning@scambs.gov.uk.

The second judicial review claim involves Steeple Morden and alleges that the council’s ongoing practice of taking delegation decisions on planning applications at unannounced meetings, from which the public are excluded and for which no agendas or minutes are published, is a violation of the Local Government Act 1972.

There is a preliminary hearing on this on Thursday next week, with the judgement expected this year.

A third claim by FLC against the council, which concerned the Council unlawfully changing its constitution, was conceded in full by the council and so is now fully settled.

The fourth claim filed in March alleged that the council has acted unlawfully by misinterpreting its own climate change and water conservation policies and by indicating to developers that future planning applications would be approved even if they did not include sufficient information to comply with the council’s policies on carbon emissions reductions and water conservation measures. The FLC has said they are unable to proceed with this claim due to costs.


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