Thank you to everyone who contributed towards the cost of our legal challenge of Newcastle City Council’s decision on Cell A/B1 of Newcastle Great Park.
We secured an initial total of £4,725 from generous pledges to our Crowd Justice page to go towards our solicitor’s fees – raising the first £1,000 in just 24 hours – which showed the strength of opposition to the plans.
Our case was heard in the High Court on Tuesday 11th February 2020, before Mr Justice Lewis.
Paul Brown QC acted on our behalf, while Richard Moules and Matthew Reed QC acted on behalf of Newcastle City Council.
Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon, also known as the Great Park Consortium, were both interested parties and were represented by Charles Banner QC.
After deliberations that extended beyond our allocated one-hour slot, Mr Justice Lewis finally refused permission to bring a claim for judicial review.
The Court agreed our case was arguable on the grounds that the planning application contravened Policy NN4 of the Core Strategy and Urban Core Plan, but judged it likely that permission would still have been granted, even when considered as a departure from local policy.
In effect, the Court acknowledged a breach in planning policy, and felt no need to address it.
We had the option of appealing the High Court decision, however, after seeking legal advice and assessing the costs already incurred, we decided against an appeal.
Looking back, our campaign had been a hard slog since its inception in 2016. From initial meetings with the Consortium and hours spent poring over planning documents, to postponed planning committee meetings and weeks spent compiling legal documents, it was a learning curve for all involved.
Although we exposed multiple flaws in the planning system along the way, it was not enough to stop the profit-hungry Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey.
To add insult to injury – shortly after the decision on our legal case was made – the Great Park Consortium objected to Banks Group’s plans for 900 houses in the adjacent Newcastle Great Park expansion site, on the grounds that they ‘contradict the sustainability objectives of the Great Park through policies NN4 and NN4b‘ – the very policies they contravened with their own Cell A/B1 application.
The Consortium went on to say that ‘the Council are under no pressure to approve this scheme contrary to the development plan‘ and that there is ‘a strong and clear policy framework to underpin its position.’ We may well question the whereabouts of this strong and clear policy when it came to the decision on Cell A/B1.
Furthermore, the Consortium helpfully pointed out that ‘the Council are also comfortably passing the Housing Delivery Test and are under no pressure in this regard’. One cannot help but wonder why the Consortium pressured the Council for 1,200 houses when 880 – as agreed in the local development plan – would suffice.
Although we were disappointed our case was refused permission for judicial review, the judge’s ruling shed light on Newcastle City Council’s decision making, which clearly and consistently undermines what was agreed democratically in the local plan.
We can take solace in the knowledge that we stuck to our guns and did all we could to stop this unjustifiable overdevelopment from impacting sensitive species and habitats in one of the most diverse nature reserves in the North East – Havannah Nature Reserve.
Thank you once again to everyone who made this fight possible.