Martlesham Heath: Legal challenge against council’s blueprint for 2,000 homes near BT’s Adastral Park
15:35 17 January 2014
A district council failed to properly investigate the impact on the River Deben of 2,000 proposed new homes near BT’s Adastral Park, a High Court hearing has been told.
The campaign group opposed to the plans began its legal challenge yesterday against Suffolk Coastal District Council’s blueprint for growth in the area.
No Adastral New Town (NANT) says the council failed in its legal obligations to consider the effect on the Deben estuary, when it approved the site at nearby Martlesham Heath for the extensive development.
NANT – which maintains the development will have an “irretrievable negative impact” on the area – is asking Mrs Justice Patterson to quash the allocation for 2,000 homes.
Any such decision would force the council to go back to the drawing board on its future housing plans for the district – set out in the Core Strategy of its Local Development Framework.
Opening the case on behalf of NANT, a leading environmental lawyer, Richard Buxton, said that it was a “rather complex story” and that the proceedings involved a huge amount of evidence.
He said: “The problem we have here stems from the fact of the proximity of the Deben Estuary not being investigated at an early stage. That is what has caused us to be in court today.
“It is about the council not investigating what it should have done when it should. It ignored an essential piece of background to its plan when it should have thought about its implications from day one.”
He argued that the council did not have the “good grace” to accept that it made “a number of highly regrettable errors”, which he said included the “serious error not to consider the highly protected status of the Deben Estuary when it started out in 2006”.
He alleged that this was a failure to meet the council’s obligations under the European Habitats Directive and that, in additional breach of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, it went down the route of its preferred option without making a “sustainability appraisal”.
He continued: “Crucially, in the mean-time, it reached a final decision in July 2008 without consideration of the Devon Special Protection Area (SPA).”
That July 2008 decision, he said was “vitiated for various reasons”, including the failure to take into account the special status of the internationally recognised SPA.
He claimed that the council compounded the situation in September 2008 by increasing the allocation of houses from 1,050 to 2,000 “without any consideration of the alternatives for the extra 950 houses” and without explaining it in a lawful way to the public.
Lawyers representing the council are vigorously defending the Core Strategy at the two day hearing. The judge is likely to reserve her decision in the complex action, and to give a written ruling later this year.
The hearing continues.