All posts by Phil Summerton

Neighbourhood plan

The vote on the Neighbourhood plan is on 27 February and is an opportunity to have a say on the future of Bridport. Below is the text of an email from the Bridport Town Clerk giving some information that will be helpful. Please feel free to share this information.

Early feedback from coverage of the Neighbourhood Plan referendum suggests that a lot of people are engaged (which is great!) but may not be able for a number of reasons to absorb the entire 106-page document.

In response, David has produced a summary guide to the Plan, and a narrated video summary.  Both are available from the main NP page at https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/projects/neighbourhood-plan/.

Hard copies of the summary guide are available from the Town Council on request, although naturally we’d encourage people not to ask unless they are unable to access the website version.

Many thanks to David for reacting so quickly to the significant number of requests for these summaries.

Please share this information via your own networks.  I have shared the summaries on the ‘Bridport Banter’ and ‘Bridport Notice’ Facebook pages, with a combined following of almost 24,000 people.

I’m sure also you’ll be aware by now that both poll cards and the NP leaflet are dropping through letter boxes this week.  The Bridport News also produced a helpful two-page spread last week, which is reproduced online at https://www.bridportnews.co.uk/news/18216834.important-points-know-neighbourhood-plan-ahead-referendum/.

Further update on Judicial Review

As previously mentioned, the full JR hearing was held on Tuesday 28 January at the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre.

The hearing was in front a judge with lawyers representing Advearse, Dorset Council and the developer (Hallam) making oral arguments to supplement the written skeleton arguments already submitted to the court. The judge had available a large amount of material relevant to the planning application. This includes a significant amount of case law.  We had a total of 8 Advearse members and supporters attending on the day. We were told that the Judge would have noticed this presence.

Our lawyers sought an order from the judge quashing the planning permission citing specific legal failures by the Council in relation to the planning application. Of course, both the Council and Hallam lawyers resisted our claim.

If granted, a quashing order would render the current Vearse Farm Outline Planning Permission (OPP) null and void.

Due to the length and complexity of the legal arguments the case had to be adjourned and was completed on Friday 31 January with some Advearse members in attendance. As expected, the judge reserved judgement and will, over the coming weeks, review all the legal submissions and arguments and issue his written judgement. Unfortunately, we do not have a clear indication of how long it will take to issue the judgment and more importantly which way it will go.

At our January meeting we examined the possible responses of Dorset Council and Hallam to which ever result emerges  and to plan our own response. Fingers crossed we win the case – but whatever the outcome we will continue to fight against the massively destructive Vearse Farm Bridport urban extension. 

We will provide a further update once the Judge has finalised his decision.

ADVEARSE ANNUAL REPORT 2019

This report has been compiled following the AGM, held on 2 December 2019. It is essentially a summary of key developments. Please contact the group if you would like more detail on any item

A year dominated by the Judicial Review

Our monthly meetings and ongoing activity have been dominated by the JR. At the start of the year we had no idea when the decision notice would be published (the Outline Planning Permission had been agreed in November 2017!). We knew that we would have just 6 weeks to launch a JR after the publication of the DN.

The DN was published in May and we spent the months before then

  • Selecting chambers who could lead a JR; negotiating fees; understanding the JR process.
  • Using the Chambers to prepare a PAP (Pre-Action Protocol) letter. This would be sent to the Council on the publication of the DN setting out our case.
  • Researching our case
  • Researching fundraising options – These largely involved crowd funding companies. We chose crowdfunder
  • Holding a public meeting in the WI Hall – which proved very successful
  • Building the support base. In this regard we were very much more active in using the website and social media.
  • Publicising the case. We obtained extensive coverage in the Telegraph with a smaller piece in the Times. A full half day with Anna Varle resulted in substantial coverage on BBC Spotlight.
  • In addition we leafletted the town and took out a large advert in the Bridport News

Applying for the JR

Following the publication of the DN we had just 6 weeks to refine our case and secure the funding (our target £34,000). We are extremely grateful to CPRE Dorset who agreed to match fund our efforts up to £10.000. This gave the momentum to our efforts and we made the target. What a wonderful response. CPRE support has provided a professional backdrop to our work.

The fundraising has made it increasingly important that we maintain excellent contact with our supporters and donors. The increased use of the website and social media has been at the heart of these efforts.

Progress on the JR

After an initial set back when the ‘paper review ‘of our case saw the judge agree with the Council position, we received an oral hearing in the Courts at Cardiff in October. Our barrister faced the Council Barrister and 2 QC’s from Hallam the developers. The Judge agreed our case is arguable and should be heard in full court. We await the date of the hearing which should be Spring 2020.

Since October we have been in dialogue with our Chambers to improve our case and to prepare our response to the Council/Hallam defence case.

Links to others nationally and locally

In the past year we have helped individuals who sought our advice/experience to help a planning appeal. We are increasingly contacted by other protest groups across the country. There are plans for joint meetings and actions from the 6 groups in Dorset who are opposing the creeping suburbanisation of Dorset.

Ongoing research and strategy

We are planning ahead on all scenarios. If the JR is lost, we intend to challenge the detailed plans. This will bring back into play factors not currently within the JR. An example of this is the safe access of pedestrians, cyclists and traffic along West Road with its narrow pavements. Any developer can expect a rough passage!

What keeps us going?

As 2020 begins ADVEARSE will begin its 8th year. Above all we highlight the fact that VF will be twice the size of any other development in the country in an AONB. (Look up the FARTHINGLOE case). We believe the planners prejudged the allocation and misled the Planning Committee into agreeing with the development. We are sustained by the vast number of people who totally oppose it.

So, a year of real achievement. A small steering group has sustained a complex fight and has had the courage to take on the Council and developer. This could not have been achieved without public support. Thanks to all.

So, the prospect of a National Park for Dorset, renewed concern about climate change and the needless loss of farmland, more awareness of brown field sites, Let us win the JR and re open the debate about the exceptional circumstances to justify VF.  It is a fight worth sustaining.

Barry Bates – Chair

Newsflash – Full JR hearing date announced

We now have a date for the full JR hearing. It will be on 28 January 2020 and is expected to last 1 day.
Location is Cardiff Civil Justice Centre, 2 Park Street, Cardiff CF10 1ET.

It is most likely that the judge will give the judgement in writing a few days later.

All the lawyers involved representing Advearse, council and developer will make written submissions and present oral arguments on the day. A delegation from Advearse will be attending to observe proceedings.


If anyone is interested in also attending please let us know so we can coordinate arrangements. A good turn out from local people will help to demonstrate the support for our case although the judge is of course impartial and will judge the outcome only on the legal arguments.

JR Update

We had a meeting with our lawyers on Friday. They will be preparing our updated detailed arguments for the full Judicial Review and have a deadline of 8 November for this to be lodged with the court. It is vital that we make these arguments as strong as possible with supporting evidence.
Over the next week we will be working hard to provide all the additional evidence to help our case.

The prospective date for the full JR hearing is 8-10 January. It is likely to last one day and will be held in Cardiff.

Press Coverage

Since the permission to go to a full judicial review there has been some coverage on local and national media. The campaign has been mentioned on BBC Spotlight (updating the feature from a couple of months ago), radio coverage on BBC Solent and Wessex FM and of course Bridport News.

https://www.bridportnews.co.uk/news/17953905.advearse-granted-judicial-review-dorset-councils-approval-vearse-farm-development/

We are not aware of any further National media coverage – but if you are then please let us know.


PRESS RELEASE

Judge grants ADVEARSE judicial review

On 3 October a judge gave residents’ campaign group ADVEARSE the go ahead for a full judicial review (JR) against Dorset Council’s approval for the biggest ever development in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). ADVEARSE members and supporters were in the civil court in Cardiff this week for the oral hearing. Their case was put by Matthew Henderson of Landmark Chambers who faced barristers and QCs representing Dorset Council and the developer, Hallam Land Management. He argued that the decision to grant outline planning permission for an urban development of over 700 houses, industrial units and other mixed use in the West Dorset countryside was open to legal challenge. The main focus was on the fact that all of the development area of Vearse Farm, outside Bridport, lies within the AONB which should only be built on under stipulated exceptional circumstances, and even then the scale of the development should be limited. The judge agreed that the case is ‘arguable’ and gave his permission for it to proceed to a full hearing. It was deemed to be a significant case in planning law and the JR is therefore likely to take place early in the new year.

ADVEARSE Chair Barry Bates commented ‘We are delighted with today’s decision. It confirms we have a case which is strong enough to be heard.’

ADVEARSE has the support of Dorset CPRE who see the case to be of national significance because if the development were to go ahead it would put into question the protection of all other AONB land in the country. Barry Bates said ‘We are fully aware of the pressure on councils to find building sites. In taking this action we hope to highlight the flaws in current planning policy which make it possible for developers to hold local authorities to ransom and build anywhere they like on green belt and AONB land, rendering councils and local residents completely powerless to object[1]. The truth is, there are no exceptional circumstances to justify this massive development, and the lack of any feasible affordable housing provision means there are no public interest benefits.’

He added ‘Vearse Farm was identified nearly a decade ago and times have changed. The news this week that Dorset and East Devon is being considered for National Park status will add further questions about the suitability of this site. It is now time for the new unified Dorset Council to reconsider this scheme.’

ADVEARSE gave thanks again to supporters who donated over £35,000 to make this case possible. 

ADVEARSE will provide further updates following further discussions with the legal team.


[1] Current government policy dictates that councils must meet a five-year housing supply target based on a standard methodology which the CPRE believes may greatly over estimate house-building need (http://dorset-cpre.org.uk/resources/item/2216-dorset-review-autumn-2018), and which is not weighted differently to protect the countryside by ensuring lower growth expectations in rural areas.  Further, the Local Plan for the West Dorset area fails to identify any available brownfield sites for development and fails to meet local affordable housing need.

Judge grants Advearse Judicial Review

NEWS FLASH: We are delighted to announce that at an oral hearing in Cardiff yesterday the judge gave ADVEARSE the go head for a full judicial review against Dorset Council’s approval for the Vearse Farm Bridport urban extension – the biggest ever development in an AONB. The judge agreed that the case is ‘arguable’ and gave his permission for it to proceed to a full hearing. It was deemed to be a significant case in planning law and the JR is therefore likely to take place early in the new year. In the next few days we will be providing more information in a press release and hope to get local and national coverage. Thanks again so much for everyone’s support.

Update on Judicial Review

The appeal against the initial rejection of our Judicial Review application will be held at an oral permission hearing listed for 3 October 2019. The hearing will be held at Cardiff Civil Justice Centre, 2 Park Street, CF10 1ET but the time of day will only be notified the day before.   The hearing will be in public and members from the Advearse Steering Group will be attending. If you are interested in attending the hearing then please contact us so we can coordinate and advise you about the arrangements. Our lawyers have said that it cannot hurt our case having a good attendance from the local community to demonstrate the depth of feeling on the issue.   Our lawyers have noted that these hearings are usually short and may last between 30 minutes and 2 hours. This is because the judge will only be determining if we have an “arguable” case, so won’t be looking into it in much detail.  The judge will almost certainly announce the decision on the day. Judgment is normally given orally at the conclusion of the submissions.  On very rare a occasions judgement may be ‘reserved’ with a written decision and judgment to follow.   Our lawyer will attend and make oral arguments having made a further written submission. The Defendant (Dorset Council) and the Interested Party (Hallam Land) may instruct counsel to attend and oppose our application.

It is important to note that the hearing will be in front of a different judge to the one who rejected our initial application. The outcome of the hearing is difficult to predict but we have been advised that it is not unusual for permission to be granted at an oral hearing. If permission is granted then we would be able to progress our case to a full judicial review court hearing.   Once we have received the decision from the oral hearing (win or lose) we will be discussing the outcome with our lawyers in deciding on our next steps. Our aim is by 8th October to issue a statement to our donors and also release a press statement.   Thanks for your ongoing interest and support.