PRESS RELEASE – Dorset Council procrastinate over judicial review legal deadline

Dorset Council have asked to defer the deadline to respond to a lawyer’s letter setting out ADVEARSE’s proposed claim for a judicial review against the outline planning permission for the Vearse Farm development.  Officially, a response should be expected within 14 days of receipt of the pre-action protocol letter sent by Leigh Day Solicitors. 

The official decision notice granting outline planning permission to Hallam Land Management was issued on election day, Thursday 2 May.  ADVEARSE has just six weeks from this date (deadline 13 June) to apply for the judicial review.  In accordance with legal requirements, Leigh Day sent the pre-action letter, addressed to the council’s legal department, on 8 May.  Dorset Council says the letter was received on 9 May but that it took a further four days for it to reach the legal department through internal mail.  In their interim reply the council has said it cannot make the deadline of 23 May and has asked for a further extension to 6 June, four weeks after the letter was received.  It says it needs the time to prepare a response, despite reporting in Local Government Lawyer on 21 March 2019 that it was aware of ADVEARSE’s intentions.

ADVEARSE Chairman Barry Bates says ‘The decision notice was issued on the afternoon before a bank holiday weekend and before the new council had a chance to be elected.  Luckily, we and our lawyers have been on standby awaiting the decision notice for almost 18 months since the planning committee made its initial decision to allow the development to go ahead.’ 

While the council’s delays will not affect the time limit for the judicial review application, its failure to meet the 14-day deadline may be taken into account by the court and costs sanctions imposed.  Leigh Day is asking for a compromise deadline of 27 May. 

In the meantime, ADVEARSE has, after initial legal and other costs, just over £12,000 left to raise of its £34,000 target money.  It must raise this money before 13 June or the legal action cannot be actioned and the Vearse Farm development cannot be stopped. 

ADVEARSE Treasurer Phil Summerton says ‘People wouldn’t object if this was a smaller-scale development of genuinely low-cost housing for local people.  But this is set to be a luxury estate for second-home owners and will bring in retirees on a massive scale.  This goes against national protections for AONB land, but local democracy has let us down and now the only recourse appears to be to the law.  This is our very last chance to stop the Vearse Farm development.’

Bridport residents have rallied round contributing direct donations of £10,000 and these have been matched by a donation of £10,000 from Dorset CPRE.  A further £3,560 has been raised through the Bridport-based Crowdfunder website: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-west-dorset-aonb.

Support is now being sought from further afield in recognition that Vearse Farm, the biggest development ever to be allowed on AONB land, will set a dangerous precedent for urban sprawl all over the UK countryside.

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Further information

Information about ADVEARSE can be found at: http://www.advearse.org.uk/about-advearse/

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ADVEARSE/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/advearse

Crowdfunder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-west-dorset-aonb

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