Friday, 27 July 2012

BANES lose both Judicial Reviews against SAVE WOOLLEY VALLEY ACTION GROUP

BANES lose both Judicial Reviews against SAVE WOOLLEY VALLEY ACTION GROUP
Save Woolley Valley Action Group


BANES lose both Judicial Reviews against

In a judgement passed down on 27th July 2012 Mrs Justice Lang DBE ruled against BANES and in favour of SWVAG Ltd. ( the fundraising vehicle of The Save Woolley Valley Action Group) on the two Judicial Reviews heard in the High Court on 3rd,4th and 5th July 2012 and refused BANES request for leave to appeal.

SWVAG represented by their barrister Mr. Richard Harwood, appointed by Richard Buxton Solicitors a leading environmental practice based in Cambridge, argued successfully that BANES had acted unlawfully in deciding that the 10 bungalow-sized poultry sheds placed by Golden Valley Paddocks Ltd (GVP) on their land in the Cotswolds AONB in Woolley on the outskirts of Bath did not require Planning Permission or an Environmental Impact Assessment. The Woolley Valley is a sensitive area protected from normally permitted agricultural development by a restriction that the Council requested the Secretary of State to impose there after a long running battle over the development of The Bath Deer Farm some 20 years ago. SWVAG’s arguments were supported by Mr. James Strachan the barrister instructed by The Treasury Solicitor and representing The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

SWVAG also argued in a second Judicial Review that the Council had acted unlawfully in granting Planning Permission on a Retrospective Planning Application for a stock pond without paying attention to all the other developments on the site.

SWVAG was formed in 2010 when it appeared that BANES were not taking any steps to curtail the desecration of this site that is highly valued by visitors from near and far as an important amenity in the gateway to the city.

SWVAG’s solicitors, Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law, had raised their concerns about how BANES were interpreting both UK and European law and forewarned of an expensive and futile legal battle unless BANES’ Planning and Legal teams reconsidered their position.

Numerous offers of meetings were turned down as BANES refused to engage in a process that could have saved them a significant sum in paying for their own legal team, which included two High Court barristers and the significant legal costs incurred by SWVAG which the judge ruled BANES must also pay.

The Honourable Mrs. Justice Lang DBE ruled in favour of SWVAG on the two Judicial Reviews heard on 3rd, 4th,5th July as follows:

“The Chicken Sheds”
My conclusion on the judicial review in respect of the poultry units is that the Council misdirected itself in law in its interpretation and application of the term “development” ….

“The Stock Pond”
In my judgment, the screening opinion was inadequate, and thus the Council acted unlawfully by granting planning permission without having carried out a lawful screening opinion.

One of SWVAG’s directors, Bill Murphy said

“Whilst we are delighted by the outcome, as tax payers we are horrified by the avoidable costs that have been incurred. It was obvious to us from the outset that there was scant regard being shown by BANES to the desecration of this beautiful area. We are also glad the Judge refused BANES' request for leave to appeal, saying that it was in everybodys interest that instead they got on with acting lawfully, otherwise they would now be opening up an exposure to another large set of costs, potentially as big as the £150,000 or so they have already wasted.

Intensive farming does not work in an AONB , near to where people live, at the gateway to a UNESCO Heritage City. This area has been grazed for centuries and that is what works here. The land is hilly pasture not suitable for intensive poultry rearing.

Surely we should be able to expect our local government officers to know the law and apply it for the good of the community? This case proves that we cannot always rely on them and must be prepared to take action to have common sense prevail and the law upheld”

We and the community would like to know if BaNES Planning
• will now enforce the removal of the caravan they recommended nearly 2 years ago .
• will act with respect to the planning permission for the 10 bungalow-sized Chicken sheds development which is currently without planning permission for nearly 3 years.
• will enforce restoration of the area where they previously granted retrospective planning permission for a stock pond.

GVP, through their agent Marc Willis, have admitted that they want to build at least one house here and started out with an alpaca farm business plan claiming that alpacas need 24/7 attention and therefore a farm worker living onsite. As the returns on alpaca farming fell they turned their attention to chickens and now ducks.

They have chosen the wrong site and by their approach have alienated the communities of Woolley and Swainswick and our thousands of supporters who include such august bodies as The National Trust and the AONB administration. We tried to engage with BANES Planning Dept. and legal officers to avoid taking the issue to Court but with no success.

However we feel this is an important step in saving this beautiful valley and other green belt land, both locally and throughout the UK. We hope that BANES will now enforce against this developer who has consistently, over a three year period, taken the approach of develop first and then apply retrospectively for Planning Permission expecting that the Council would find it“not expedient” to enforce.”

For further information or clarification please contact:
In the first instance: Kieran Higgins, Director, SWVAG Ltd. 07776 463859
Or Bill Murphy 07778 474 896

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