Saturday, 16 December 2017

Second legal challenge to Thames Farm ruling

Second legal challenge to Thames Farm ruling

A SECOND legal challenge to plans for 95 new homes at Thames Farm is in the pipeline.

Shiplake Parish Council is to ask the High Court for a judicial review into a planning inspector’s decision to approve the development off Reading Road.

South Oxfordshire District Council made an identical application last week.

The Shiplake councillors believe that by also taking legal action it will strengthen the case against the proposal by landowner Claire Engbers, which was refused permission by the district council.

They say they are willing to underwrite the cost but will welcome donations and may launch an online crowdfunding campaign.

The inspector John Braithwaite granted Mrs Engbers’ appeal last month, saying that there was a shortage of both housing land and affordable housing across South Oxfordshire.

He said this made the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which didn’t earmark the land for development, invalid.

Mr Braithwaite also said that concerns about road safety at the site entrance could be overcome by imposing planning conditions.

The district council has claimed he inspector made “legal errors” by failing to address the development’s conflict with its core stratgey and local plan as well as the neighbourhood plan.

It also argues that he failed to address its arguments about the application of a 20 per cent buffer of housing.

Tudor Taylor, the chairman of Shiplake Parish Council, said it had decided to take action following legal advice and in view of the impact of the inspector’s decision on the community and others in the process of creating neighbourhood plans.

He said: “This is a big decision considering the size of our parish’s share of council tax but this development will have such an impact on Lower Shiplake that we feel it must be challenged as effectively as possible.”

Peter Boros, who chairs the Shiplake’s neighbourhood plan steering group, said: “I wholeheartedly support this as I believe there are a number of omissions and errors made by Mr Braithwaite which should be part of the case.

“The objective here is simply to quash the decision so there are no marks for being precious or secretive as we all seek the same result. We want to ensure every conceivable reason is included — there is no monopoly on good ideas.

“I will be happy to put my hands in my pocket when it is needed as I do not have total confidence in how the district council is handling matters.

“The lack of information being provided to interested parties is worrying and as a party which gave evidence at the inquiry I would have expected more.”

Mrs Engbers’ agents say the plan is “greener” than her earlier bid for 110 homes and will help young people as it includes 38 “affordable” units.

The site is not in the green belt or the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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