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Comment: We Admit Our Mistake Over Ash Manor But the Whole Judgement Should Be Considered

Published on: 23 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 24 Dec, 2020

Recently, council leader Joss Bigmore said: “Following the Ash Manor Judicial Review case, I’d like to congratulate Mrs Wyeth-Price in successfully bringing the claim, which the council will not be appealing. To lose a Judicial Review is a chastening experience but we are a council that admits our mistakes and the lessons learned will improve how we operate as an organisation in the future.”

But after what some could describe as “errors” expressed by Dragon letter-writers, Cllr Bigmore  wrote to The Dragon explaining important points and clarifying more exactly what the judgement means.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

By Joss Bigmore

leader of Guildford Borough Council

“Although Mrs Justice Lang ruled against the council, her judgement centres around a very narrow and specific point in planning law. The criticism was that the final report to the Planning Committee did not explicitly direct councillors to give added weight to the harm caused to the heritage assets of Ash Manor.

“Justice Lang did not criticise the officer’s approach to the assessment of the harm, in fact, she noted in her judgement that the committee report carried out a ‘commendable’ and extensive weighting exercise in assessing the harm to the heritage asset.

“I explain this not to downplay the seriousness of the judgement, but to point out that some of the recent comments from residents writing to The Dragon about this case have not reflected the actual judgement.

“It is important that the specific points made by Justice Lang are understood. Although many would like it to be the case, this judgement does not say building in the vicinity of Ash Manor is wrong or the housing allocation is incorrect. It says the weight which the Planning Committee afforded to the harm clearly identified by the officers in their report, may have been incorrect.

Ash Manor

“Correcting the error may appear to be straightforward, but I have no doubt members of the Planning Committee will find re-assessing the corrected proposal a complex task.

“Also I’d like to explain to your readers that of the four grounds of challenge, only one succeeded. Justice Lang found no fault with how the council or our consultees dealt with the issues about flooding or the ancient tree.

“In addition, the allegation that proper consultation was not carried out during the course of the application was quickly dropped by Mrs Wyeth-Price herself.

“While I can understand this Judicial Review decision may reduce the confidence that some residents have in our planning system, I can assure you we will learn from this and the error made with this application will not be repeated.

“I do not believe the judgement should have any bearing on the assessment of future applications, as long as the formal processes and tests are followed. You can have full confidence that planning matters relating to our built heritage will continue to be robustly scrutinised by both officers and members of the Planning Committee.”

See other Ash Manor stories here.

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