Grainger has made its move. One day before the deadline is up it has launched a legal challenge against the appeal verdict.
Grainger’s options are limited. It cannot ask for a ’second opinion’ on the substance of the decision – it can only challenge the lawfulness of the process. It has sent an initial ‘Statement of Facts and Common Grounds’ to the High Court of Justice (you can see it here). In due course there is likely to be a court hearing where a judge will perform a Judicial Review and rule on the matters of law.
Grainger site three 'grounds' – three areas in which it contends that Katie Child, the Inspector, erred in law. They contend that she:
- Misinterpreted development plan policy in relation to gaps
- Gave too much weight to 'out of date' policy
- Misinterpreted the definition of ‘valued landscape’
None of these are a silver bullet for Grainger. The Inspector’s decision was sound and rational and Grainger faces an uphill battle in persuading a judge that the nuanced legal technicalities it sites undermine this fact.
Why have Grainger done this?
You may agree that Grainger’s move is cynical in the extreme. It is happy to ignore the view of our local politicians; the view of our Parish, Town and District councils; the view of the Planning Committee; the view of the Inspector; and the view of hundreds of concerned residents.
This cynicism is born of the huge profit it seeks to make. It has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds so far – but what’s a couple of hundred more when there are millions to make. And to add insult to injury should they win the judicial review it’s us residents, as tax payers, that will foot the bill and pay Grainger’s costs.
Grainger are motivated too by the prevailing winds of changing policy. SODC’s new Local Plan is reaching maturity; Didcot Garden Town’s plan’s are evolving; and The East Hagbourne Neighbourhood Plan is drafted. None of this is good news for Grainger. They’re making a bolt for the door before it shuts.
How long will this take?
Assuming that the Secretary of State decides to defend their inspector (we presume they will) the case should get to an initial hearing in the next 1-2 months (the forthcoming General Election may lengthen this time). If the Court thinks it is a worthless claim it will be kicked out immediately. If the initial hearing indicates that there are proper grounds to the challenge then it should get a full hearing 3-4 months after the initial hearing. The decision emerges 1-2 months after that.
What can we do as a campaign?
Mind the Green Gap have not been cited as a defendant (which is probably good news). So, our input will be in the background rather than centre stage. We have sought legal advice and will provide help and support wherever it is needed.
What can we do as a community?
We are not yet sure how individuals can participate in proceedings (as soon as we know so will you). We do know for sure that whatever the outcome of this process it is vital that a strong and well supported East Hagbourne Neighbourhood Plan is in place as soon as possible. The Steering Group have been working hard on drafting the plan. You can hear how its progressed and show your support at a meeting at 7.30pm on 18th May at the Pavilion.
What if Grainger win?
Even if a judge rules in Grainger's favour they cannot then order in the bulldozers. Instead the whole process will re-set – perhaps to the beginning where a fresh development application will be made. This is our understanding to date. If we get advice that is contrary to this we’ll let you know.
What if Grainger lose?
Grainger has appealed to the High Court so any further legal action should it lose the case is very unlikely. Grainger’s last chance will be up. Its last role of the dice will be zero. The Green Gap will be saved!