Council go-ahead for controversial road quashed
With a judicial review looming, Hastings Borough Council has quashed the planning permission given for the Queensway Gateway road, but says it will bring the application before the planning committee again. Gabriel Carlyle of the Combe Haven Defenders, who sought the review, welcomes the decision, but questions whether the council should continue seeking approval for the road. Nick Terdre reports.
Hastings Borough Council has decided to quash the planning permission granted in February to Sea Change Sussex for the Queensway Gateway road ahead of the judicial review granted to Gabriel Carlyle of the Combe Haven Defenders. A High Court judge had accepted that a judicial review was merited on two of the five grounds proposed by Mr Carlyle – the failure of the planning committee to consider national and EU regulations on air quality and to mitigate the pollution, notably in nitrogen dioxide emissions and acid deposition, which the road is predicted to cause.
The council’s decision has to be ratified by the High Court.
“The High Court has already ruled that the majority of Mr Carlyle’s arguments are misconceived,” said Kevin Boorman, the council’s marketing and major projects manager. “We do accept that the report which went to our planning committee in respect of the ‘Queensway Gateway’ road did not draw committee members’ attention to the policy regarding air quality. It should have done, and we apologise for this omission.
“We do not think that it is in the interests of local council tax payers for us to continue lengthy and potentially costly legal debate and so we have agreed to reconsider the scheme again at a further planning committee meeting.”
“Hastings Council are spinning like crazy in an attempt to hide the fact that they were in serious breach of the law regarding dangerous pollutants,” Mr Carlyle told HOT. “It’s simply untrue to say that the High Court ruled that most of my arguments were misconceived: following the Court’s preliminary ruling about which issues could be taken to judicial review I made a decision to focus on the most substantive issue: namely, Hastings Borough Council’s decision to go ahead with this disastrous project in breach of various laws on air pollution and with absolutely no mitigation.
“This was not – as the Council tries to spin it – simply a matter of failing to inform the planning committee about the air pollution which would be caused by the road: Sea Change’s own figures show that the road, if built, would breach national and EU directives on air pollution, and there was no attempt to mitigate this pollution.
“If Hastings Council had not acted unlawfully in granting planning permission, I would not have needed to bring this case. Moreover, by holding out until the last minute – when it must have known months ago that it was in the wrong – it is the council, not me, that has been incurring unnecessary costs for the taxpayer. I hope that it will now accept that the Queensway Gateway road should not be built, and not take further steps to attempt to force through this wasteful, destructive road.”
The government is now preparing new measures to reduce air pollution following a Supreme Court ruling in a case recently brought by the ClientEarth NGO that it had failed to fulfil its obligations to meet EU standards on nitrogen dioxide levels, which are mainly caused by diesel engine emissions. The court directed the next environment secretary to draw up a plan to meet the EU rules by the end of the year. This might make it advisable for the council to hold fire on the Queensway Gateway road until it sees what the measures are.
Meanwhile a Sea Change spokesman told HOT, “We understand that Hastings Borough Council is intending to reconsider the Queensway Gateway road scheme at a further planning committee meeting in the near future. We’ll wait to see the outcome of this process.”
In the wake of the planning permission, Sea Change has already felled trees along the route of the road. Some kind of reparation from the council may be required – at taxpayers’ expense – if the road ultimately does not go ahead. The failure of the planning department to properly inform the planning committee of relevant legislation in this case also raises the question as to whether it has made similar failings in other applications.
Combe Haven Defenders press release
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