Plaintiff behind judicial review of 4,000-home development asks council to mediate dispute

A claimant who recently won High Court clearance for a legal challenge over the impact of a 4,000-home development in Cambridgeshire on the water supply of a nearby town has asked the District Council to South Cambridgeshire to agree to alternative dispute resolution.

In June this year, Madam Justice Lang granted judicial review by the Fews Lane Consortium of the local authority’s planning approval for Phase 3A of the construction of a new town named Northstowe.

The grounds allege that council ignored its development plan’s water quality policy, misdirected its planning committee about a possible postponement of the decision to obtain additional environmental information, and irrationally omitted to require the applicant’s environmental impact assessment to consider water supply issues.

It is also alleged that the council failed to issue the required statement of its reasoned conclusions on the environmental effects of the development.

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In a letter earlier this month to council leader Cllr Bridget Smith, Fews Lane Consortium director Daniel Fulton said he remained satisfied that the application for judicial review of the Phase 3A planning decision of Northstowe would be successful.

“However, the Consortium is also aware that the only appropriate remedy available to the court is an order to set aside, which would cause significant delays in the development of Northstowe, further delay the delivery of important community facilities and could jeopardize the ability of the District Council to maintain a 5 year land supply for housing in the coming years,” Mr Fulton added.

He wrote that the concerns at Longstanton could be resolved if a proper environmental impact assessment were to be undertaken and an updated environmental statement made available to the public.

He wrote: “This course of action would avoid the need to cancel the Phase 3A building permit, which is the most likely outcome if the judicial review continues until the final hearing scheduled for the 29th and 30th november.

“The purpose of this letter is to request the District Council to enter into mediation with an independent third-party mediator to resolve the dispute.”

On behalf of Longstanton Parish Council, the District Council previously commissioned HR Wallingford to investigate the reasons for reduced water levels in a village pond.

The council’s website states that while HR Wallingford associated the construction of Northstowe with reduced water levels in the pond and suggested that the pond and groundwater were in hydraulic continuity, “they did not establish no other link with a specific infrastructure”.

The council added: “Council has sought clarification from developers L&Q Estates on the relationship between the drainage system and groundwater. L&Q Estates has suggested that the development is not responsible for this change. Inquiries are ongoing. on potential groundwater circulation pathways near Kingfisher Pond, but there is no definitive conclusion on this issue at this time. The Board continues to work with the developer on this issue and is seeking input further comments from L&Q Estates in response to recent comments.

Regarding the legal action, a council spokesperson said: “Fews Lane Consortium has brought an action for judicial review of the council’s planning committee’s decision to grant planning permission for Northstowe Phase 3A. Counsel notes the court’s decision allowing the challenge to proceed to a full hearing and expects to explain to the court at that hearing how it came to its conclusions on this claim and reached a legal decision. As this is an ongoing court case, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

They also pointed out that the judicial review was not about the groundwater issues at Longstanton and was instead about wider issues around the water supply.

Nearly 200 people have signed a petition released by the consortium calling on the District Council to pursue alternative dispute resolution.

Adam Carey