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court ref no: CO/4548/96 ...
court ref no: CO/4548/96

A controversial scheme to transform a disused RAF base in the heart of the Cotswolds into a new village hangs in the balance after coming under fire in London's high court today.

Sited in an 'area of outstanding natural beauty', the 108 hectare base set up by the RAF at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, was last used by the US airforce.

But when the USAF moved out in 1994, at the end of the Cold War, the airfield lay disused and was finally sold to property developers after the ministry of defence decided it had no further use for the site.

The developers, Country and Metropolitan Homes Ltd, came up with a scheme to transform the base, which had provided housing for military personnel and their families, into a village of around 300 homes, with a sports hall and community hall.

But the plan has come under attack from residents in the neighbouring area, who claim Cotswold DC has failed to consider all the implications of the scheme for a famous beauty spot.

The high court heard the district council granted planning permission for part of the scheme in November 1996, shortly before the site was sold on to another property developer, the Bradford Property Trust.

Other applications relating to the plan are still in the pipeline but the first grant of planning permission is being attacked by members of the Barrington Parish Council.

The parish council argues the district council should have considered the plan as a whole instead of granting planning permission for part of it.

Keith Lindblom QC, for the parish council, which also claims it should have been consulted before the grant of planning permission, told the court the district council's decision not to consider the scheme as a whole, was allowing 'piecemeal development'.

He added: 'It is a sensitive location in an area of the Cotswolds classed as being of outstanding natural beauty.

'Access to the site is likely to involve an increase in the movement of traffic on the rural highways, including roads which pass through the parish of Barrington.

'The approach here should have been a comprehensive one, not one which leads to piecemeal development.'

Mr Lindblom admitted the planning permission under attack 'could be seen as relatively trivial' because it related to the refurbishment of existing houses, the creation of gardens and construction of 11 garages.

But he added: 'Effectively what is being planned is a new settlement and there is a risk in dealing with applications on a separate basis.

'The provision for community facilities could go by the board because it is being dealt with in a separate application.'

Mr Lindblom is now urging Mr Justice Keene to give the parish council, which wants the grant of planning permission overturned so forcing the district council to reconsider the scheme as a whole, leave for a full judicial review challenge to the plan.

But both the district council and the developers are fighting the case, David Holgate QC, for the district council, this afternoon arguing the parish council has left it too late to issue a challenge because its case had been brought close to the three-month time limit for judicial review.

He told the court: 'There has been undue delay by the parish council in making its application for leave, especially as it gave no notice of its intentions to either the district council or the developer.'

The hearing continues.

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