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HARLOW PLANNING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN'S CALLS TO OBJECTOR UNDER SCRUTINY

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Harlow businessman Mo Ghadami triumphed in his High Court fight to block a multi-million pound extension of the tow...
Harlow businessman Mo Ghadami triumphed in his High Court fight to block a multi-million pound extension of the town's Harvey Centre.

The Iranian-born entrepreneur, who presented his case in person, persuaded Mr Justice Richards to quash Harlow DC's grant of planning permission for the development, which would add 27 shop units to the Harlow Centre, including a two-storey Debenhams department store.

The scheme will now be delayed as the judge ordered the council to reconsider the matter in the light of his ruling. The plans could even be blocked altogether if the council ultimately reaches the opposite conclusion.

Afterwards a jubilant Mr Ghadami said: 'Justice has prevailed. They have lost. I am absolutely delighted with the result. I now intend to ask for the resignation of the chairman of the council over what has happened.'

Nevertheless, Mr Ghadami said he was disappointed with the judge's ruling that each side should pay their own costs on the basis that Mr Ghadami although he had won the case had not been succeeded on all the points he had advanced.

Mr Ghadami said he would be considering seeking permission direct from the Appeal Court to challenge that. The judge today refused him permission to appeal.

However, in his judgment he backed Mr Ghadami's claim of 'apparent bias or predetermination' in the decision, as a result of the continued participation of Michael Garnett, the chairman of the planning committee, in the planning process after he had attempted in telephone calls to persuade Mr Ghadami to consent to the scheme.

The judge said: 'The impression that I have got from transcripts of the telephone conversations is that Councillor Garnett was anxious to see the proposed development take place and was seeking to remove the potential blockage or delay that the claimant could cause.'

He said that Mr Garnett had asked Mr Ghadami if he was willing to be bought out by the developers for less than the£15m he had demanded, and had pointed out that a compulsory purchase order could be made against him. The judge declined to rule on whether this constituted a 'threat', as Mr Ghadami had claimed.

He continued: 'I find it surprising that the chairman of the planning committee should have involved himself in this way in discussions concerning a development which was, or was going to be, before the committee for a decision on the grant or refusal of planning permission.

'The conclusion that I reach is that the decision to grant planning permission was vitiated by the participation of Councillor Garnett. I consider the claimant's case of apparent bias or predetermination has been made out. In my judgment, Councillor Garnett ought to have stood down.

'Since the decision to grant planning permission was reached by a majority of four votes to three, the view I have formed about the inappropriateness of Councillor Garnett's participation in the decision-making process must lead inevitably to the quashing of the planning permission.'

Mr Ghadami had argued that the work, which would involve the demolition of Little Walk and West Walk and the partial demolition of Westgate and Broad Walk, would breach legal property rights he has over car-parking spaces, infringe the right to light at his nearby property and lead to intolerable noise and traffic.

He claimed the major development would have a 'significant adverse environmental impact throughout the town centre', and argued that the council made a 'clear and flagrant breach' of national rules by approving it without an environmental impact assessment.

Mr Ghadami said the new development, planned to provide 22,249 square metres of extra retail floorspace as well as three levels of car-parking, would directly overlook his property, Mo's Leisure, and interfere with his right to light and other amenities.

He claimed that a new road access that formed part of the plans would lead to traffic congestion in front of his premises and additional noise and disturbance from the extra traffic.

He argued that a number of car-parking spaces that he uses under legal easements - property rights - would be removed as part of the scheme.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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