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Martlesham Heath: NANT says legal action could have been avoided over Adastral Park development

PUBLISHED: 08:25 08 August 2014 | UPDATED: 08:25 08 August 2014

Aerial view of Adastral Park and surrounding area. Photo by Cliff Hoppitt - airshots.co.uk.

Aerial view of Adastral Park and surrounding area. Photo by Cliff Hoppitt - airshots.co.uk.

Cliff Hoppitt - airshots.co.uk

Campaigners accused of hindering the planning system in east Suffolk by engaging in a long-running legal battle with the district council over housing have insisted they are not attempting to “sabotage” the authority.

No to Adastral New Town (NANT) was granted permission last week to appeal against the High Court’s decision to reject its claims that Suffolk Coastal District Council had failed in its obligations when creating proposals for 2,000 homes at Martlesham Heath.

The decision had been met with disappointment by Geoff Holdcroft, who is responsible for planning at the council, as he feared it would cast further delays over “much-needed” new housing at Adastral Park.

He was also concerned the prolonged legal challenge would leave the council’s core strategy incomplete, giving developers the opportunity to take inappropriate developments that it rejected to appeal, as a number had already done.

Although NANT’s spokesman Janet Elliot accepts the decision is “annoying” for SCDC, she said it could have all been avoided if the authority had acted properly to begin with.

“They can bang on all they like about causing them all sorts of problems but the bottom line is that if they had done their job properly in the first place none of this would have happened,” she said.

“We all think it’s very regrettable that the people involved in NANT have had to spend so much of their time and money in taking this as far as we have but we aren’t trying to sabotage the council.”

Ms Elliot claims the problem dates back to SCDC’s alleged failure to recognise the significance of the environmental importance of the Deben Estuary when putting forward its core strategy housing proposals.

Parts of the estuary near to the proposed housing site are designated as a Ramsar site, which means it is recognised as being of international importance due to its rare examples of natural wetland. Ms Elliot claims this fundamental aspect of their argument has been consistently overlooked and she was therefore “very pleased” that NANT was granted permission to appeal the High Court decision, made in February.

“We feel that this vindicates our decision to start our legal action. We did not make that decision lightly but the council’s intransigence left us with little choice,” she said.

“It is disappointing that the local community was forced to go to such lengths. We believe that the council went badly wrong procedurally at the early stages of developing its core strategy. It failed to comply fully with EU habitat and environment directives when choosing Adastral Park as the site for its strategic housing allocation of 2000 houses.”

Mr Holdcroft said the decision was “extremely disappointing”.

“There is a clear need to have a policy framework in place to properly plan for the needed homes and jobs and we will continue to strongly argue our position on this matter,” he added.

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