ESJF NEWSLETTER 24
Improved scheme at Cricket Club
Explanation of legal action
• The Forum’s legal challenge has been discontinued. ESJF has decided not to proceed with application to the High Court.
• We are satisfied that the legal challenge has had the intended effect of bringing improvements to the development proposals and a way forward for discussions with the Council on future major applications.
• We have a commitment from Yelverton Properties, the developers, to implement improvements to the external appearance of the student blocks and new pavilion
• Our members with professional expertise are working with their architects.
• Andrew Davis of Yelverton has been helpful and positive in reaching the agreement. We welcome his commitment to continue to work with the Forum as the development progresses.
Agreement and decision to halt legal action
The Forum’s Steering Group has discontinued the legal challenge against Exeter City Council’s planning permissions for redevelopment at the Cricket Club. Following a design workshop on ideas for improving the external appearances of the student blocks and new pavilion, we have reached an in-principle agreement with Andrew Davis of Yelverton Properties Developments.
In return for a commitment to continue the workshops with their architects and expert members of the Forum and to implement the agreed changes, details and materials, we are taking no further legal action. In other words, we have not applied to the High Court for permission to proceed to a judicial review.
We are very grateful for the excellent legal advice from our barrister, Victoria Hutton of No 5 Chambers, and solicitor, Lisa Foster of Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law.
Detailed illustrations will not be ready for a few weeks. We will post them on the website when available. Aylwyn Bowen, Colin Pill and Frazer Osment, our representatives at the workshops, are pleased with the preliminary sketches. There is more work to be done, but with continuing goodwill, we are satisfied that a genuinely improved scheme will result.
Andrew Davis’s willingness to bring all parties together and to encourage the architects to consider suggestions from Frazer and Aylwyn is appreciated.
Assuming all goes well with the design workshops, Yelverton will send a non-material amendment submission to the Council in September. It will have been agreed with the Forum beforehand and the Council has advised that no further consultation will be necessary.
Of course, the agreement relates to changes to the external appearance only. The Steering Group and many Forum members were very disappointed that the Council had not been more robust in questioning the need for redevelopment on this scale or for insisting on a more detailed assessment of the landscape and visual impact.
Why did we start the challenge?
Localism Act and neighbourhood planning – new powers giving local communities a stronger influence in planning in their areas? As it turns out, not as strong as promoted. The Neighbourhood Plan is a statutory document, but the Forum is not a statutory consultee. The Council did not have to formally consult us or to check whether we were satisfied with their interpretation of Neighbourhood Plan policies before making its recommendation to Planning Committee. And they didn’t.
Far from wanting to ‘destroy’ the Cricket Club, Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan policy was specifically intended to secure the Club’s long term future at the ground. We did not oppose the principle of replacing the old pavilion with enabling development. It was the sheer scale of four multi-storey brick-and-tile blocks in a sensitive environment that concerned us. Contrary to scaremongering, there was never any question of building over the open space of the cricket ground itself.
Attempts to defer the applications in order to discuss our concerns failed. After the planning consents were issued, a legal challenge was the only course of action open to us in defence of the Neighbourhood Plan.
Future working with the Council
In a compromise that achieves a better looking development in the Conservation Area, we are also talking to the Council about improving contacts between planning officers and the Forum’s Design Panel and Steering Group.
An initial discussion last week was friendly and helpful and we look forward to better consultation and exchanges with the planning officers at an early stage in the future.
Cricket Club and the local community
Several Forum members have complained about the erroneous and misleading statements made about ESJF by members and supporters of the Cricket Club. The Club is an associate member of the Forum and was aware of the two year process for the Neighbourhood Plan. It did not choose to comment then, nor, on behalf of the Club, did its members take an active part in the workshops and consultations. We hope the Club will now do more to involve and inform the local community about its activities.
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