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Campaigner wins battle over removal of Local Green Spaces status for playing fields

A local resident has won a High Court challenge over the removal of Local Green Spaces (LGS) status for playing fields from the London Borough of Richmond’s Local Plan.

The Teddington Society and Friends of Udney Park had applied for the status for Udney Park Playing Fields, a 12.5 acre site. Following a consultation, the council’s Cabinet adopted LGS status for the fields as part of the Richmond Local Plan.

During the public examination of the Local Plan the council defended the LGS status while Quantum, a developer looking to obtain planning permission for 107 apartments, sought to have it removed.

In his report on the examination the planning inspector recommended a main modification removing LGS status from Udney Park. Richmond considered itself bound by the report and so gave effect to the main modification when it subsequently adopted the Local Plan.

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The claimant’s case was principally that the main modifications did not make it clear that they included de-designation of the site, and therefore those in favour of retaining the designation were not given a proper or real opportunity to make representations on the point at this stage of the examination.

As a result, the claimant said, they were substantially prejudiced. Had they been made aware that this was a matter to be addressed in the consultation, they could and would have submitted further evidence and arguments on the point. They said it was conceivable in this event that the outcome would have been different, ie designation would have been retained.

Quantum sought to resist this ground of challenge. In particular it argued that the de-designation of the site as LGS was not and could not have been the subject-matter of main modifications; accordingly, the council, in undertaking the related consultation, was not obliged to refer to it

There was therefore no procedural error in the main modifications consultation process which was the only challenge made against the council, it added.

Mr Justice Waksman upheld the claim, saying that the claimant and Friends of Udney Park had suffered sufficient substantial prejudice as a result of the procedural defects. He quashed the relevant part of the Local Plan.

Richmond Council will now hold a six-week consultation on the inspector's decision that had removed Udney Park’s LGS status from the Local Plan.

The Save Udney Park campaign group said it would then have six weeks to prepare a new application for LGS, which will then be assessed by the council and determined by a new planning inspector by 15 May.

The group said: “So, to be clear, we don't yet have Udney as LGS back, but we have a fresh chance to make the case on a fair and open basis. If LGS status is recovered it will help the council fulfil its own commitments in the Local Plan and provide further weight to their objection in the upcoming public inquiry on Quantum's planning application, starting on June 24th."

Jenny Wigley of Landmark Chambers represented the claimant and Rupert Warren QC and Heather Sargent, also of Landmark, represented the Interested Party.

A copy of the judgment can be found here.

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