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Our High Court win – council decision on carnival development was unlawful

Becky Collier
By Becky Collier
9th November 2022

Recently, we took the bold step of making a judicial review claim against South Somerset District Council.  This is not something to undertake lightly but we were determined that our countryside should not be allowed to be destroyed on the basis of an unfair decision so we went ahead

We wanted to challenge the Council’s vote to approve construction of a large scale industrial building of 2000 square metres with 85 parking spaces in the open countryside.  The building was for use by carnival clubs which are based in various towns in Somerset, as a space for them to construct their floats or “carts”.

Why we objected to the proposal

CPRE Somerset supports the Somerset carnival. It is a hugely important part of Somerset culture and history which brings our communities together.  However, we objected to this plan because we think it is wrong to impose a large-scale industrial building in the open countryside against the wishes and interests of the local community.  There would be unacceptable levels of traffic in the narrow lanes, and harm to the entirely rural landscape.  We feel a more suitable site could be found on a brown field industrial site on the edge of one of the larger carnival towns, within easy reach of carnival volunteers.

Why we went to court

In our opinion, the decision made by South Somerset District Council to approve was unlawful as two of the Councillors who voted were conflicted.  We had pointed this out to the Council before the Committee meeting.  We asked for a deferral but our request was ignored.  The committee went ahead and the vote was narrowly won, by 6 votes to 5.

Our case was heard in October at the High Court in Bristol.

On 8 November, Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that South Somerset District Council’s decision was, indeed, unlawful as two of the councillors on SSDC’s Area West Planning Committee in the 6-5 vote were ‘tainted by apparent bias’.

What happens now

The planning consent will now be quashed.  The planning application will go back to the Planning Committee for determination, without the participation of those conflicted Councillors.

Hugh Williams, CPRE Somerset Chair said “CPRE Somerset is pleased that the High Court has agreed with us and quashed the decision. Ensuring planning decisions are taken lawfully is crucial for everyone involved in the planning system, and we look forward to seeing this matter re-addressed in the correct way by SSDC in due course

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