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 (, 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.

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