Axminster homes plan opponents win judicial review

High Court Judge allows full legal challenge to Cloakham Lawns planning consent

ENVIRONMENT campaigners have won a judicial review into the granting of planning consent for up to 400 homes on a greenfield site in Axminster.

A High Court judge has ruled the Save our Parkland (SOP) group can challenge East Devon District Council’s decision to award Axminster Carpets permission for the Cloakham Lawns development.

SOP lodged proceedings in the High Court, in London, on July 14, and has instructed a leading firm of environmental lawyers and barrister Dr David Wolfe, of Matrix Chambers, to represent them.

The action is being resisted by both the district council and Axminster Carpets.

In addition to granting permission to proceed to a full hearing – at a date to be fixed - the High Court judge has also capped SOP’s costs exposure by way of a Protective Costs Order, limited to �10,000.

SOP campaigners said they are delighted with the judge’s ruling that the district council has a case to answer before the courts.

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They point out that the planning authority’s controversial decision to grant planning permission for the housing development was made despite widespread opposition from residents and the town council.

They claim the housing scheme would destroy one of the town’s important “green lungs” - while failing to deliver the much needed north-south bypass.

But supporters of the housing scheme claim the extra homes, built over several years, would boost the town’s prosperity and pave the way for improved local facilities – safeguarding the carpet factory’s future and providing more jobs. It would also deliver some 160 much-needed affordable homes.

A spokesman for the district council said today: “This legal challenge takes place against the background of a high level of national political, professional, legal and public interest in the draft National Planning Policy Framework, and its likely implications; and more generally the role of the planning system in facilitating sustainable development, economic growth, the resolution of a national housing shortage, the protection of the countryside and the enhancement of the natural environment.

“We understand that the judge gave permission, or leave, for an appeal by way of judicial review to go ahead on two of the three grounds of appeal that the Save Our Parkland’s group raised with him. The giving of permission indicates that two of the grounds of appeal are ‘arguable’ and is a preliminary step in the proceedings. As to whether those arguments will be successful when the matter is fully argued in the High Court, time will tell.”