Plans for a major mixed-use development to the north of Colchester looks set to go ahead after an application for a judicial review of the scheme’s planning permission was rejected by the High Court.
The Colchester Northern Gateway development was approved in July 2017 and would be built on council owned land next to Colchester’s football stadium. It would have an 80-bedroom hotel, a 12-screen cinema and almost 8,000 square metres of leisure and restaurant space.
However, the developer behind the rival Tollgate Village development in Stanway, west Colchester, the Tollgate Partnership, lodged an application in April 2018 to overturn Colchester Borough Council’s decision to grant approval to the Northern Gateway project. The Tollgate Village scheme by contrast was approved by the secretary of state in August 2017 after a successful appeal, following two previous refusal decision from the council.
The Tollgate Partnership has alleged that the council’s backing of the Northern Gateway scheme, proposed by rival developer Turnstone Estates, was founded on an incorrect application of the National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF) sequential test for town centre uses. Turnstone Estates called the legal challenge ‘hypocritical, vindictive and completely unnecessary’.
According to a planning report, Colchester Borough Council commissioned advice from consultancy Lichfields as part of its consideration of the NPPF’s sequential test. Subsequent advise provided was that the Tollgate Village was sequentially preferable but that the scheme was “highly specific to a named operator” and “would be unviable for the mix of uses proposed”. It could therefore be discounted, the consultancy said.
Planning officers concluded that “The [Northern Gateway] proposal is considered to meet the sequential test as no suitable alternative site can be demonstrated.” Mr Justice Holgate rejected the judicial review application last week and ruled that planning policies had been correctly applied by the council. The judge awarded £8,500 in costs to the Council in defending the action.
Colchester Borough Council reacted positively to the decision, stating that the ruling “confirms that the council’s advice to the planning committee was sound and appropriate” and that planning policy and case law has been interpreted correctly.