Search This Blog


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Coombes Farm and Eric Pickles Pickles' letter - Part 2

In my post of 10th November I wrote about Cala Homes' successful challenge to Eric Pickles decision to revoke regional house planning strategies. At the time, the Government response was that the High Court decision made little difference to its plans. The Localism Bill, to be guided through Parliament in 2011, would clear up any uncertainties and in the meantime the fact that this Law is due to be added to the Statute Book means that it can remain a "material consideration" by Councils when considering planning applications. Cala Homes' legal team is obviously intent on wiping Pickles' nonchalant smile off his face, as they're seeking to take him back to the High Court for a second time. Amongst other things, they are disputing the Government's statement that their intended legislation can be taken as a material consideration. As there is no Act of Parliament, yet, to replace existing legislation covering house building targets, Cala Homes wants a Judge to agree that planning decisons must be made on the basis of current legislation in place, ie the previous Government's housing targets, and no legal weight can attach to legislation that has not yet been passed. From where I sit, despite the fact I want Coombes Farm to be protected against any development and therefore want the Government to succeed in its aims, I foresee Eric Pickles' nose being rubbed in it once again. And, sadly, I can only think of one word to summarise the situation we now find ourselves in. Incompetence.

Friday, 12 November 2010

An opportunity for the Square?

A new Sainsbury's "Local" opens at the end of the month on the old BP Petrol site at the bottom of West Street. Given that the Co-operative (formerly Somerfield) has only been open a few years that will give Rochford two extra food outlets and will surely put pressure on the Spa in the Square and other retailers. However, some locals see this as a possible opportunity to remedy a past evil. The Spa's premises are architecturally completely out of keeping with the surrounding handsome Georgian and Victorian structures...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Coombes Farm & Eric Pickles' letter

Colonnade's application for judicial review against the Government's refusal to permit its development at Coombes Farm was given a minor fillip today. Another developer, Cala Homes, was in the High Court to hear Judgment on its own challenge to the legality of the Government's decison to unilaterally abolish regional strategies without putting a Bill before Parliament. This was also one of Colonnade's arguments in its Appeal. The Judge ruled that, indeed, Eric Pickles had acted unlawfully in taking this course which technically means that the previous Government's approach to planning remains in place. The Government is adamant that little changes. Its "Localism Bill" will begin its passage through the Commons at the end of this year with the aim of gaining Royal Assent in 2011. Soon, one way or another, Regional Strategies will be abolished and local Councils will decide how many houses can built, and where they can go.

But it is quite possible that if Eric Pickles had not issued his letter, directing Planning Authorities that Regional Strategies are revoked with immediate effect, and the same letter to be given material weight in decisions on planning matters, we would not be in this limbo period and, most importantly, Colonnade's plans would be no longer.

That's because the Planning Inspector refused Colonnade for a number of reasons, most signifcantly due to the land being designated green belt. She made no reference to Eric Pickles' letter. That came with a supporting document, in addition to her own decision, from the Secretary of State. However, the two documents form the whole refusal, and it was enough for Colonnade's legal team to seize upon as one of the reasons for its appeal for Judicial Review. Cala Homes' Judgment in the High Court today sets a precedent for many Housebuilders across the country, including Colonnade.

If Eric had kept quiet it would probably be game over for Colonnade. We would not be here in this period of uncertainty. The Planning Inspector gave sound and robust reasons for refusing Colonnade, which should withstand any Judicial Review - if allowed (we won't know probably until 2011). So much for the new Government's proposals for planning issues! It hasn't helped Coombes Farm at all. In fact, quite the opposite as it's kept Colonnade's candle alight for a little while longer. Eric, this is not a good start. You were given poor legal advice and the result is an impression of incompetence.