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High Court throws out challenge to Ashford’s local plan

Words: Huw Morris

The High Court has rejected a challenge to Ashford Borough Council’s local plan in a dispute over use of a site.

Bellamile Ltd, which owns the former Bombardier site in the town, had objected to Network Rail’s proposals to bring part of the site back into use as a light maintenance train depot. 

Network Rail’s planning application was approved in principle by the council’s planning committee in July.

Bellamile had challenged the safeguarding of the site for railway uses for a period of up to two years, which started with the adoption of Ashford’s local plan last February.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also appeared in court as an ‘interested party’ to defend the role of its planning inspectors in validating Ashford’s draft local plan.

Bellamile claimed the inspectors erred in concluding that the local plan was sound, giving inadequate reasons for safeguarding the site for railway uses for up to two years. It also claimed that the council’s decision to adopt the local plan was irrational.

But Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing dismissed the challenge and upheld the legal integrity and soundness of the plan.

The court also heard that Bellamile failed to bring its claim in the time allowed and in the correct way. The judge rejected its request for an extension of time and awarded the council almost £34,000 in legal costs, which has now been paid by Bellamile.
“I am pleased that our local plan has withstood this examination in the courts and I want to congratulate all the staff who have worked diligently and with great skill and professionalism in preparing the local plan, and in defending it in court,” said Ashford council leader Gerry Clarkson.

Image credit | iStock