High court challenge for Stevenage West development

A HIGH Court challenge disputing a decision to allow a 3,600-home development west of the A1(M) in Stevenage will be heard in London on Tuesday.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) and Herts County Council (HCC) are fighting a decision made in November 2009 by the secretary of state to grant outline planning permission for the West Stevenage Consortium development.

The permission was granted for proposals to build 3,600 houses with facilities for businesses and leisure on the land to the west of Stevenage between Todd’s Green and Norton Green, and stretching almost as far west as the B656.

The challenge is scheduled from March 22 to 24, and will be held at the Royal Courts of Justice, London.

Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC portfolio holder for planning, transport and enterprise said: “We have consistently objected to these proposals since the planning application was first made in 2001, and we are now looking forward to the case being heard in the High Court.

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“NHDC believes that there are three key reasons why the then secretary of state, John Denham, should not have granted planning permission for this scheme.

“Firstly, we do not believe that there is adequate provision for affordable housing in the proposals. Secondly we do not think that the plans are sufficiently sustainable, with not enough consideration given to the use of renewable energy.

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“Lastly, we feel there remains an unacceptable level of financial risks to both North Herts and Herts County Council due to the nature of the unilateral infrastructure undertaking.”

Should the appeal be successful, the original decision would be quashed and sent back to the current secretary of state for reconsideration.

This would have to take into account current circumstances, such as the government’s intention to scrap Regional Strategies, which would include the East of England Plan.

The costs incurred from the challenge will be most likely be paid if the appeal is upheld, but if it is not then both councils could face substantial costs.

NHDC have put aside �65,000 from the general fund balance should the risk materialise.

Tim Akeroyd, chairman of the Campaign Against Stevenage Expansion group, has continued to protest the proposals. He said: “We are not satisfied that the arrangements are right, so we support the appeal and hope it’s successful.

“If this development was to go through, it would be essential that it provides all of the facilities necessary and we don’t think this is the case.”

Cllr Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council supports the Stevenage West project and said she was disappointed that there was a legal challenge. She added: “We are waiting with interest to see what the outcome is.

“It’s disappointing that after the many years of planning, NHDC and HCC are placing obstacles in our path when housing is so badly needed in this area.

“It’s vital for the economy of the town, but also for the 6,500 people that are on the waiting list for housing.

“We’re desperate for affordable housing and this development would help us to deal with those people.”

A spokesman for HCC said: “As proceedings are active and the hearing is imminent, there’s not much that we can say on this.

“HCC’s legal challenge in the west of Stevenage case is due to be heard in the high court from March 22 to 24.”

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