A Government inspector has handed a crushing defeat to the council over its plan to protect a much-loved music venue.
Planning inspector Philip Major says the council acted unreasonably and unlawfully in its attempt to impose a deed of easement on a housing development near The Stables in Wavendon.
He’s also ordered the council to agreed a figure with Abbey Developments and pay all their legal costs.
Mr Major had warm words for campaigners who made it clear that The Stables is a “valued community facility”.
But he said they were wrong about the threat.
“There is simply no basis to conclude, as feared by many local residents, that the lack of a deed would place the future operation of The Stables in jeopardy.”
Council officers had been pinning their hopes on being able to express their opinions at a hearing.
But Mr Major decided to base his decision on written submissions.
“I took the decision that a hearing would not be necessary,” he said in his decision announced on Monday, July 6. “The matter to be determined is relatively straightforward.
“I am aware that there are many representations and petitions, all of which I
have taken into account, but this in itself does not justify an oral event.”
Abbey Developments had submitted hundreds of pages of legal opinions to do with their application for what it known as “reserved matters”.
Mr Major considered that because the council’s development control committee had already given permission for 134 homes on land north of Wavendon Business Park, off Ortensia Drive, it could not impose a brand new condition.
The deed of easement would have had the effect of nullifying a planning permission by handing power to The Stables.
And it could have made the homes on the site unsellable if everyone living there were told that they would have to put up with noise.
The inspector said a deed of easement could have been appropriate but it should have been considered when the council agreed to the principle of planning permission in the first place.
To try to impose it at the reserved matters stage – when the details of planning applications are filled in – was too late.
Mr Major concluded: “Because I consider that the condition fundamentally undermines the benefit of the outline permission, certainly in relation to this part of the site, I agree with the legal opinion which indicates that it is unlawful.
“Even if I was wrong in that respect, the condition is nevertheless wholly unreasonable in seeking to fetter the development, and future residents, of the whole site when it is clear that it is not necessary to seek any such restriction on this phase of the development.”
On the application for costs, he said it is “one of the most straightforward I have seen”.
He slammed the council’s approach.
“The council’s rebuttal of the costs application fails to provide any respectable basis for its approach or justify the disputed condition.”