High Court Refer On BANES Planning To Judicial Review Hearing
SWVAG Ltd is pleased to announce that at a hearing on Friday, 21st July, in the High Court, by the order of Mr. Justice Ouseley, they were granted permission for a Judicial Review in the High Court in their action against Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES). The judge heard arguments from SWVAG's counsel, Richard Harwood, and from Lisa Busch representing BANES, and ruled that BANES have a case to answer in two Planning cases regarding the Golden Valley Paddocks Ltd (GVP) intensive farming development in the Woolley/Swainswick Valley.
The first case involves SWVAG's claim that BANES' position that ten chicken sheds, each designed to house 1,000 chickens, does not fall under European Environmental protection directives is unlawful. The second case involves SWVAG's belief that the only Planning Application (one of 8, that GVP have submitted, all retrospectively) so far approved by BANES for a stock pond has been approved unlawfully.
Mr. Justice Ouseley also granted SWVAG a Protective Cost Order so that they can proceed with their action with the comfort of being able to budget their costs. He also agreed with SWVAG's request to expedite the hearing as the case has been proceeding already for some considerable time and has ordered for the case to be heard in the next term ie the next 4 months.
SWVAG Ltd is the legal vehicle for the Save Woolley Valley Action Group who have registered more than 1,000 expressions of support on their website
Local developer Golden Valley Paddocks Ltd (GVP Ltd) have continued work on a site in the Woolley Valley despite having 8 retrospective Planning Applications, 5 which were rejected, one granted (which is now to be considered in judicial review) and 2 which BANES are currently considering. BANES Planning Dept. failure so far to enforce the 5 refusals sets a dangerous precedent for rogue development in Green Belt land across the country.
GVP Ltd appears to be a property developer who is using agricultural schemes to justify the siting of first mobile and then permanent residences. They applied retrospectively for planning to erect an agricultural building supposedly to house alpacas – a known shoo-in for residential planning with some local councils. They then proceeded with further developments (all without permission) to support an intensive chicken farming operation involving the use of 10 bungalow-sized chicken barns, which will allegedly house 10,000 chickens.
The Woolley Valley in which the development is sited is within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and has the additional protection of an Article 4 Direction which was put in place by the Secretary of State for the Environment on 3 Feb 1993. The Article 4 Direction removes specific permitted development rights:
- Works for the erection, extension or alteration of a building; or
- Any excavation or engineering operations.
BANES Planning Department issued a Planning Contravention Notice in early May and a Temporary Stop Notice forbidding further excavation and engineering work on the 10th April 2010 (which expired 20th May 2010). BANES Planning Dept. issued an enforcement order on the 21st May 2010 to halt any further site earth level changes. It acknowledged in its Enforcement Report of the 18th May 2010 that it is expedient to enforce the removal of the mobile home but to date has not issued an Enforcement Order for this. It is now over 15 months later .
Peter Gabriel commented:
"This is one of the most beautiful valleys in the west of England, and the development is making a mockery of our planning and environmental policies. I can only think that BANES don't have the resources to fight it, as clearly it would be an issue that you would imagine would be high on their agenda."
Jonathan Dimbleby, who owned the land from 1993 until 2005 stated:
“I am particularly dismayed by the way in which the field nearest the village has been excavated and partially filled with what looks like hundreds of tons of spoil. This was the most ecologically valuable field on the holding with natural streams and it was farmed with great care to avoid poaching the land and to maintain its particular character.”
Jacob Rees Mogg, newly elected MP to the area commented of B&NES:
“It is important that planning laws are applied effectively. There must not be one rule for us and another for aggressive developers. The scar on the landscape is a disgrace and I am urging the Council to act.”
The National Trust have stated:
"It is clear that the landscape is being destroyed with major earthworks and a number of enormous supposedly mobile chicken houses," Wendy Stott, the National Trust's Bath property manager.
"This is an important valley and the National Trust urges the council to take speedy and effective action to prevent unauthorised developments. We are more than willing to lend our support to the local campaigners and will always seek to protect such important countryside areas around Bath. The National Trust is supporting the campaign being run by Save Woolley Valley Action Group.”
SWVAG Ltd formed in April 2010 to raise public awareness and encourage organisations and influential individuals to apply pressure on BANES Planning Dept. to stop the illegal and destructive development taking place in Woolley Valley. They launched an online petition (www.savewoolleyvalley.co.uk) to demonstrate to the council that the campaign has significant public support and that they must enforce planning regulations against rogue development, if they are to maintain their integrity and support amongst the local public.
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