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£10,000 costs awarded to council over legal challenge to Northstowe

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A judge has ordered Fews Lane Consortium to pay South Cambridgeshire District Council £10,000 in costs after it discontinued a legal challenge.

Fews Lane began their legal challenge against planning permission granted by the council for 4,000 homes and facilities at Northstowe.

The consortium issued the claim to judicially review the process of granting planning permission on 6 May 2022.

The council’s planning committee had considered the application on 28 January 2022 and permission was formally issued in the spring after the completion of the developer agreement (section 106).

“The council has always maintained the process of granting the planning permission was sound,” a council spokesperson said today.

“Papers submitted by Fews Lane Consortium discontinued the claim the day before the case was due to be heard in court.”

The legal challenge centred on whether the council had required the applicant, Homes England, to adequately assess the environmental effects of the development on water and the advice provided to the council’s planning committee by officers.

“Homes England’s Phase 3a plans for homes and facilities can now proceed,” said the spokesperson.

“The council has spent around £45,000 in legal fees to defend the claim.

“Many more hours of staff time have also been spent preparing for the case, in addition to the legal fees.

“Fews Lane successfully applied to the court to limit their costs, meaning the council can only recover £10,000.”

Fews Lane Consortium had lodged five further claims for judicial review of decisions made by the council since 2019.

The spokesperson added: “It has threatened the council with action in a number of other cases which needed officer and legal resources to be used but have not resulted in claims.

“In four of the additional cases the Judicial Review claims by Fews Lane Consortium were refused permission to be heard by a judge.

“Costs awarded to the council in these cases were in excess of £10,000.

“The council has taken action to recover these costs, but as yet has not received anything from Fews Lane Consortium.”

The spokesperson for the council said that in the other case the court did propose to hear it, but the council agreed to look afresh at the matter and take the decision again.

“Permission was subsequently approved for a second time,” said the spokesperson.

Cllr John Williams, Cabinet member for resources at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “I am pleased that the legal challenge has been withdrawn.

“We do not really want to be using tens of thousands of pounds of local taxpayers’ money defending applications for judicial review of our planning decisions.

“These claims end only in delays, the diversion of officer resources and considerable cost to the council and to applicants.”

Cllr Williams said: “There is a cost-of-living crisis and the finite funding we have available would be far better spent on providing services to people in the greatest need.

“It is even more frustrating when this case was discontinued by Fews Lane Consortium the day before the court date.

“Our communities rightly expect us to try and recover as much money as we can, and we hope Fews Lane Consortium will now do as the judge has ordered and pay the costs.”

Fews Lane Consortium had claimed that the overall effects of Northstowe’s development led to loss of water from ponds and wetland habitats in nearby Longstanton.

The group was set up to campaign for sustainable development.

 

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