Gravesend Heritage Quarter Judicial Review:
Urban Gravesham's fight for fair, transparent and democratic planning decision gets the 'go ahead' from the courts. (posted 10/08/14)
Urban Gravesham's legal fight to overturn Gravesham Borough Council's decision to grant final planning permission for the huge and over-scaled Heritage Quarter development took a huge step forward last Tuesday (30th July).
The Honourable Mr Justice Lewis has issued his decision - Urban Gravesham's case to get the planning permission struck out can proceed to the High Courts. This means that the judge considers that Urban Gravesham's case- that the Council did not follow lawful procedures, and did not consider all relevant matters when it issued planning permission- is strong.
In more detail, Urban Gravesham was granted leave to apply to the courts to get the permission thrown out on the following grounds:
a) The Council's Chief Planning Officer should not have made a decision to grant final planning permission on his own- without reference to Councillors on the Council's Regulatory Board (i.e. our democratically elected representatives);
b) In the year between the 'in principle' decision of Councillors to grant planning permission (by one vote) and the final grant of planning permission by an unelected officer, there had been significant changes in circumstances- in particular the financial payments to be made by the developers (under section 106 of the planning acts) for affordable housing and other matters had changed from that that was previously indicated to Councillors. Councillors should have had the opportunity to take a fresh view on whether these changes are acceptable and whether the scheme remains acceptable.
c) Council officers, when issuing the final decision, failed, themselves, to properly consider the changes in circumstances.
The Judge rejected two further grounds- d) that the financial agreement ought to have been available for public consultation, and that it should automatically have been taken back to Councillors for a decision and e) that the process followed by the Council was unfair and unreasonable in the way alleged by UG.
The Council issued a press release that was parroted in an unthinking way by a certain local newspaper (title of article - 'Judicial Review granted - sort of') that stated that UG had won on a 'technicality'. It also quoted Council Deputy Leader Lee Croxton as criticising UG for being undemocratic and costing tax payer money.
In answer to these-
- there is no such thing as a 'technicality'- there is a substantive case for the Council to answer.
- It is ironic the Councillor Croxton talks about democracy when the decision making powers on whether to grant permission or not had been removed from our elected representatives- our Councillors- and the decsion taken instead by an unelected officer.
- Similarly, its down to the Council to save further expense to the taxpayer. All it has to do is to throw out the rotten decision to grant planning permission for the huge out of scale scheme (taken in secret by unelected planning officers) and hand it back to our elected representatives for an open and transparent final decision.
Read the legal documents posted in the courts by Urban Gravesham
Read the judge's verdict
Gravesend Heritage Quarter: Council's Secret Deal
When Councillors on Gravesham Borough Council's Regulatory Board narrowly agreed in principle to grant planning permission for the massive out-of-scale Heritage Quarter scheme a year ago, they were told by planning officers that over £9m in contributions would be sought towards affordable housing, roads and schools via a planning (Section 106) agreement.
For weeks, Urban Gravesham has been trying to obtain a copy of the actual deal. Finally, under threat of a High Court injunction from Urban Gravesham’s lawyers, the Council’s lawyers have grudgingly produced a copy of the agreement which reveals that only about 1/3 of that amount has been secured.
Most of the secured contribution would merely go towards providing replacement town centre car parking on some unspecified site. Only £1m is being offered for off-site affordable housing– a long way from the £3.6m demanded by the Council's Cabinet.
Absent from the Agreement is the replacement church hall, the community provision and the promised £250,000 boost to the Old Town Hall. Furthermore, the Church, in their position as major landowners within the Western Quarter, are not signatories to the agreement. The whole of the Western Quarter, including the proposed shopping centre with its promise of jobs, investment and regeneration appears now to be on ice.
A further £3.5 m of contributions may follow – but this is subject to the whole development going ahead, and the development producing a financial surplus after developers’ profit has been skimmed off. However, the viability report carried out by Gravesham Council’s own advisers, Mouchel, stated that the scheme is likely to have a negative value and is not commercially viable.
Download the financial (Section 106) agreement
Download the Council's consultants' assessment of the viability of the Heritage Quarter Scheme
Download UG's comparison of funding sought and funding now agreed.
Gravesend Transport Quarter- will KCC Councillors vote to close the Station Car Park and allow heavy traffic through the Community Square? (posted 30/01/14)
Following a visit to Gravesend on 19th January, Councillors at Kent County Council will make a planning decision on the ill-fated Gravesend Transport Quarter Scheme in March.
The huge multi-storey car park proposal has been dropped, along with plans for a bus 'interchange'. All that remains is the proposal to spend a staggering £8 million on diverting traffic flows from the north of the Railway Station to the south.
The 242 space commuter car park would be permanently closed to make way for the new southern road, as would disabled spaces at the car park and at Railway Place. Even more bizarre is the proposal to divert service traffic (Including large lorries) from Tesco, the Thamesgate Centre and town centre shops through the very narrow Railway Place, and along the east side of the Community Square! A historic building at the Rathmore Road/ Darnley Road junction would be demolished to provide a widened junction at this point.
The scheme is in Kent County Council's programme of works and is to be funded by the Government's Homes and Community Agency. However, the last say lies with Kent County Council's Planning Committee.
Urban Gravesham thinks that the whole scheme is a crazy waste of money that will be highly inconvenient for commuters who use the Rathmore Road car park, and that it will only serve to ensure that Railway Place and the newly traffic calmed Community Square are ridden with traffic, noise and fumes.
TO OBJECT TO THE PROPOSALS email email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting Gravesend Transport Quarter and planning ref KCC/GR/0148/2012. Include your name and address. Your e-mail does not have to be complicated- simply state what you think about the proposed permanent closure of the Rathmore Road car park, the loss of commuter and disabled parking, and rerouting of heavy service traffic through Railway Place and the Community Square etc.
Download UG leaflet on the scheme (handed to KCC Councillors on 19/02/14)
Read Urban Gravesham's letter to KCC Councillors
Learn more about the Transport Quarter
Its official! Buried bear pit is of national importance (posted 12/01/14)
Back in 2012, and along with a range of other campaigners, Urban Gravesham became involved with the disused factory site that was once the location of the famous Rosherville Gardens- dating from the 1830's and at its height in the 1870's visited by 1 million visitors per year- many of whom travelled by paddle steamer from London. Frequent visitors included Dickens, Lillie Langtry, and Gaiety Girls.
An archaeological investigation on the old AEI factory site came across the well preserved remains of a bear pit- the one time home of 'Rosie the Bear' - who along with other exotic creatures entertained the crowds. Parts of the old Italian Gardens on the site were also rediscovered
We tried to persuade the Government's Homes and Communities Agency, who own the land, along with Gravesham Borough Council in its capacity as planning authority, to drop plans to deposit 1000's of tons of landfill from the London Crossrail project over the remains of the gardens. However, they refused to listen and the historic features are now reburied under tons of earth.
However, we have just learnt that English Heritage have 'listed' the bear pit. This means that it is a historic feature of national importance.
Whist we recognise that not all the old Rosherville Gardens can be restored, we think that the land owner should restore the bear pit and features of the Italian Gardens as a small local park as the centrepiece of high quality development. We hope that this time the Homes and Communities Agency and Gravesham Council (which calls itself the listening Council') should actually listen...We will be writing again to both organisations. Watch this space.
And in the Blue corner (posted 17/07/13)
Since the Gravesham Regulatory Board resolution to grant planning permission for the Gravesend Heritage Quarter scheme, planning permission has been granted by Dartford Council to expand Bluewater by 20%. Both Gravesham Borough Council and Heritage Quarter developers, Edinburgh House, had objected to the Bluewater scheme on the grounds that the retail viability of the Gravesend Heritage Quarter scheme would be affected.
UG agrees. It is now very questionable whether the retail part of the HQ scheme will be built at all. UG thinks that Gravesham Regulatory Board Councillors should look at the whole matter of the Heritage Quarter scheme again.
Read Gravesham Council's letter of objection and report
Gravesham Borough Council Regulatory Board resolves to give Heritage Quarter Scheme planning permission (posted 01/05/13)
At a meeting last night (30/04/13) GBC's Regulatory Board resolved to grant planning permission to the Edinburgh House Heritage Quarter proposals. It was, however, a controversial decision- three Councillors voted for it, three against, and three abstained, thus leaving the casting vote to the Chair, Councillor Jane Cribbon- hardly a ringing endorsement.
This permission is subject to to agreeing financial contributions for health, highways and other matters. These have not been agreed and until they are, the scheme does not officially have planning permission
The meeting was a farce- hundreds of people, the vast majority against the scheme, turned up to observe (as is their right) democracy in action. They were denied access to the Council Chamber where the meeting was taking place, and were instead decanted to the Woodville Halls to watch the meeting via a televised link . The meeting was delayed when the link went down and eventually ended at 10:45pm- by which time many concerned citizens, who stand to have their flats thrown into darkness by the scheme, had had enough of this particular brand of local democracy, and had gone home.
To read more
Urban Gravesham - the Civic Society for Gravesend and Northfleet
We are an ordinary group of citizens who care about the character and environment of the urban areas of Gravesham.
We aim to support positive changes to the town centre but we will, where necessary, campaign against changes that we think would damage the character of area.
We have been involved in major campaigns to save the Heritage Quarter (round St Georges Church and the Market Square) and the Transport Quarter (round the Railway Station) from mass development.
or phone 01474 359223
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Download the UG Review of year as presented at the AGM of March 2014
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