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Parish council fails in legal challenge to permission for 220-home scheme

A Kent parish council has lost an attempt to judicially review a planning decision by Maidstone Borough Council because the local authority cited concerns about traffic that referred to a different area.

Mrs Justice Lang ruled against Headcorn Parish Council in the High Court on its objection to a proposed development of up to 220 houses on a 8.6 hectares site immediately north of Headcorn.

The parish challenged the Community Secretary's decision that the project was not likely to have significant effects on the environment for having failed to take into account concerns expressed by a Kent County Council officer about the cumulative impact of traffic on the A229 and A274 generated by the proposed development.

But the judge said the correspondence relied on by Headcorn from Kent officer Ms Cooper did not refer to this development specifically, or even solely to the area in question, and “I do not accept the claimant’s submission that [the] correspondence could or should have been read by the Secretary of State to refer to concerns about the cumulative environmental impact of increased traffic on the A274 generated by this development in Headcorn”.

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She noted that Kent had not opposed Maidstone's allocation of the site for housing.

In Headcorn Parish Council, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government & Anor [2017] EWHC 970 she said: “I consider that the Secretary of State was entitled to base his screening assessment upon the material before him which did relate to the site, and to disregard as irrelevant the issues raised in the correspondence from Mrs Cooper which did not relate to the site.

“Since KCC had submitted detailed comments on this particular application, the Secretary of State was entitled to assume that these comments represented KCC's views. He was not under any legal obligation to launch a speculative investigation into whether KCC might also be concerned that development in Headcorn could have a cumulative environmental impact on the A274 corridor in the south eastern sector of Maidstone, when there was no objective evidence to support this suggestion.”

Mark Smulian

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