The civic group contesting Gravesham Council’s decision to grant planning permission to redevelop the Heritage Quarter will have their day in court.
But Urban Gravesham did not have things all their own way as two of the five grounds they put forward in their application for a judicial review challenging the decision were dismissed by a High Court judge.
In his judgement on Thursday (July 30) Mr Justice Lewis ruled there was no legitimate expectation the decision would be referred back to the Regulatory Board once a Section 106 agreement had been signed with developers in May.
He also rejected Urban Gravesham’s claim the process was “perverse, unfair and unreasonable” and branded their application for the disclosure of further documents “a fishing expedition”.
Gravesham Council deputy leader and lead member for planning and the environment Councillor Lee Croxton, said: “Urban Gravesham is now left clutching at legal straws while continuing to cause delays to the desperately-needed regeneration of the town centre.
“It has taken more than a decade of negotiation and planning to get to the position where the work could begin yet it is being delayed by an unrepresentative, unelected group of litigation-minded Luddites.
“Meanwhile those who care for the future of the town remain shocked onlookers at the delays.”
But the application will proceed on three of the five grounds, meaning the start of construction on the £120 million redevelopment of the Eastern Quarter, Western Quarter and St Andrew’s Gardens will be further put back.
Mr Justice Lewis did rule there were grounds for considering whether the decision to rubber stamp the scheme after £6.6 million of infrastructure investment were agreed with developers in May should have been taken by the Regulatory Board and not council officer Clive Gilbert.
He also said the change in circumstances between this deal and the granting of planning permission in April last year – including the Section 106 Agreement – and whether these changes were significant or not would have to be looked at.
A statement from Urban Gravesham said: “Our decision is one of principle that important planning decisions should be made by elected councillors, in public, not council officers, in secret, behind closed doors.
“The entire action could have been, and still could be, avoided, by the simple expedient of agreeing to take the matter back to the regulatory board.”
A one day hearing will now be scheduled to take place at some point before Christmas.
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