21 DECEMBER 2013 Press release on Judicial Review outcome
The Budleigh Longboat Association and its many friends are surprised and disappointed that in a written judgement issued today, Judge Birtles, did not find sufficient merit in its claim to quash the Longboat planning consent of 2012. Judges do have considerable discretion and the case has to be exceptionally strong to succeed.
Although all who supported the appeal are disappointed, the decision is accepted.
The challenge was made because this was a controversial planning decision to build a two-storey contemporary café on an important site on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Importantly, it was the first planning application in what is supposed to be one of the most highly protected sites of outstanding natural beauty in England.
The plan, which also involved the demolition of the last known example of an Admiralty Longboat House, attracted widespread local opposition. In a poll conducted by the Town Council, three out of four voted to keep the historic building and even more were opposed to a two-storey development. No less than 36 per cent of residents voted, compared to 33 per cent in local elections.
This development was also opposed by the World Heritage Coast Management Team and Natural England who raised further objections relating to the vulnerability of such a large structure on the beach to storm surges.
We believe it was important and responsible to make this challenge as two other similar applications had been rejected by the planning committee, one a few months before and another quite recently. We felt that members of the planning committee had been misled by the Planning Officers’ report.
When considering planning matters, the East Devon District Council (EDDC) is supposed to act, and to be seen to act, in a quasi-judicial and fair way. By pursuing this action we have made the point that the EDDC faces the real risk of legal challenge from objectors whenever they attempt to push procedural boundaries to support their recommendation.
There are already signs that, as a result, EDDC is now paying more attention to the correctness of their procedure. For example, they are bringing important consultee comments, from groups such as Natural England, to the committee however late in the process they arrive, rather than ignoring them; and they are making full audio recordings of proceedings so that there can be no doubt about what was said.
So far the Longboat applicant has refused to work with the community to find a solution which is sympathetic to the history of the existing building and natural beauty of this World Heritage Site. We recognise that to remain economic the Longboat House needs refurbishment and remodelling.
It is still not too late to find a solution that enhances rather than dominates the heritage landscape; most importantly, the solution should be one which commands local support without which local businesses cannot flourish.
The legal challenge was issued in the name of David Daniel and he would like to thank all those in the Budleigh Longboat Association who have supported him over the past six years. All concerned greatly appreciate the specialist professional support received in recent months from the newly-formed East Devon Alliance and from local councillors.