Campaigners against Mansfield’s controversial Lindhurst Development have lodged an appeal against a judge’s decision not to allow a judicial review into its planning approval.
A group of residents bordering the site on land off the A617 Marr Route, led by environmental activist Shlomo Dowen, launched their legal challenge on the basis that Mansfield District Council’s decision to grant planning permission had been illegal.
Now lawyers acting for Mr Dowen have set out the grounds under which the campaigners are challenging a decision by a judge at London’s Administrative Court this month to dismiss the request.
Central to their objections is the plight of rare bird species the Nightjar and the Woodlark, both known to inhabit Harlow Wood, a potentially designated Special Protection Area (SPA) which borders the 169-hectare site.
They fear the development would have a detrimental impact on the ground-nestig birds and Mansfied District Council did not follow the risk-based approach advised by Natural England when considering such planning applications.
Said Mr Dowen: “The central character in this story is Natural England. Mansfield District Council says it took Natural England’s advice as per its protocal and our argument is that it did not follow Natural England’s advice.”
The risk-based approach advocated by Natural England requires planners to act as though an SPA were in place when a development borders a wildlife habitat and assume increased risk from pets such as cats and dogs, for example.
Wildlife conservation guidelines state an area can be given SPA status if it is home to 1 per cent of the population of a rare species.
Meanwhile, a survey has found that Sherwood Forest, including Harlow Wood, contains 4 per cent of the UK’s Nightjar and Woodlark population.
Said Mr Dowen: “The High Court judge erred when he said Mansfield District Council had done everything Natural England had called for in relation to the risk-based approach.
“They could have asked Natural England what they should do and Natural England would have told them.”
Mr Dowen also claims the high court judge may have been better equipped to make a decision regarding the degree to which members of the planning committee which approved the development were properly informed about Natural England’s position if they had listened to a voice recording of the meeting.
He felt this position was backed up by written evidence from Mansfield District Councillor Martin Wright, who said committee members were not given sufficient reasons for Natural England’s position.
Said Mr Dowen: “Our case went to the courts last week. If this goes in our favour it could be that this goes for judicial review.”
Bev Smith, Corporate Director of Regeneration and Regulation at Mansfield District Council, said: “The High Court has already dismissed two appeals against the Lindhurst planning application and on both occasions the judges said that there was no arguable case for a judicial review.
“The Council does not accept that the Planning Committee’s decision to grant outline planning permission for the development was flawed or unlawful and we will continue to robustly defend any further appeals.”