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PLANNING DECISION BY GUMMER QUASHED IN HIGH COURT

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A bitter dispute between rival developers over which should have the right to build a new superstore for the town o...
A bitter dispute between rival developers over which should have the right to build a new superstore for the town of Towcester was thrown open again by a judge in London's High Court.

Judge David Widdicombe QC quashed the Environment Secretary's decision to grant planning permission for the development proposals put forward by Claymount Properties Ltd. Also quashed was the Minister's decision not to 'call in' Claymount's application for his own personal consideration as he had done with a rival scheme put forward by Morbaine Ltd.

The judge said 'I am not sorry to have reached this conclusion ... in this case I felt no doubt that justice was not being done and that the correct balance was not being struck.

The local authority was anxious that Claymount's application to construct a 15,000 square foot superstore off Tiffield Road, Towcester, should also be called in by the Secretary of State so the rival schemes could be considered together. The council and Morbaine Limited sought Judicial Review of the Secretary of State's refusal to take that court, said the judge.

And Judge Widdicombe said the Minister was subject to 'unofficial guidelines' that, where there were two alternative planning applications, he was obliged to give reasons for 'calling in' one but not the other. He had given no such reasons for refusing to call in Claymount's application and the Secretary of State's decision was therefore quashed.

The court heard Claymount was granted planning permission for its scheme on the recommendation of an Environment Ministry Inspector after an inquiry in February this year. That decision was also quashed after Judge Widdicombe found thE Inspector had wrongly interpreted a critical planning policy. Judge Widdicombe's ruling means that the Secretary of State must now reconsider his decision not to 'call in' Claymount's planning application.

The planning permission granted to Claymount was also quashed and the Secretary of State must also now consider that application afresh.

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