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SCALE OF EDUCATIONAL FACILITY MAKES IT PLANNING TEST CASE

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Residents of a Welsh village, furious over plans to build a massive educational facility in their midst, are facing...
Residents of a Welsh village, furious over plans to build a massive educational facility in their midst, are facing an anxious wait for the outcome of their high court test case.
If locals succeed in thwarting the multi-million-pound plans that would bring 1,600 pupils to Church Village, near Pontypridd, major reform of national planning laws may be necessary to
bring them into line with the new Human Rights Act.
Lawyers for four residents and the Llantwit Fardre community council are asking top judge, Mr justice Richards, to call a halt to the Garth Olwg Project before planning consent is even
granted.
They say the local planning authority, Rhondda Cynon Taff CBC, should be disqualified from deciding its own planning application for the project which is to be built almost entirely on its own land in the village.
For the council to decide the issue, would violate objectors' right to a hearing by a 'fair and impartial tribunal' under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is currently commonplace for local councils to grant themselves planning consent, but that practise may be consigned to history if the residents win their case.
After a hearing at London's high court lasting a day and a half, Mr justice Richards recognised the importance of the case by reserving his judgement until a later date.
Counsel for the residents, Mr Peter Harrison, earlier told the judge: 'We challenge the council's intention to determine their own application for planning permission for their own project
on their own land.'
He said the project would 'on any view radically change' the face of the village and a community council survey had revealed that 75% of locals are against the scheme.
Mr Harrison added: 'The project has, we say, become a juggernaut with which the council are clearly determined to go ahead. The council is not in a position to take a rational or
impartial view.'
For its part, the council says the project is of vital importance to a large area and the public interest in seeing the scheme become reality outweighs individual human rights
considerations.
The Welsh assembly has already declined to 'call in' the planning application for its own consideration so, if the residents win their case, the project will be faced by a 'total impasse',
council lawyers argue.
Mr Christopher Cochrane QC, for the council, gave assurances that no member of the council's 'cabinet', nor any councillor directly involved in the Garth Olwg project, would sit on the
planning committee when the decision is taken.
If the project goes ahead, it will cover more than 11 hectares and include two Welsh medium community schools, community lifelong learning facilities, a day nursery, extensive sports
facilities and a great deal of associated infrastructure.
The four residents joining the community council in its judicial review challenge are Alan Kathro, Patrick Grant, and Michael and Vivienne Evans,
of Main Road. All four live very closeto the proposed development site.
Mr Kathro has lived in Church Village all his life and Mr Grant has been his neighbour for 14 years. Mr and Mrs Evans are both nurses and have six-year-old twins.
Mr Justice Richards indicated that he might give his judgement in the case in Cardiff where he will be sitting in July.
STRAND NEWS SERVICE
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