The hopes of campaigners against Mansfield’s controversial Lindhurst Development have been dashed after their request for a judicial review into its planning approval were refused.
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.
The group claimed that the council planning committee failed to approach its assessment of the risk to wildlife of the site in-line with Natural England.
It also said the council failed to properly assess the effect of the development on Harlow Wood - a potentially designated Special Protection Area (SPA) for two species of birds.
Said Mr Dowen: “All parties agree that the section 106 agreement with the Lindhurst Group was flawed and that was only identified thanks to our efforts.
“The Lindhurst Group have been sent back to the drawing board to work up an agreement that will stand up legally.”
Under current planning guidelines SPAs cannot be built on.
But last week’s review at London’s Administrative Court found that Mansfield District Council and the Lindhurst Group’s 106 agreement had wrongly included a clause stating the council would not be charged compensation if the development was found to be an SPA.
Plans for the 169-hectare site include 23 hectares of land for new businesses, a community park, shops, bus links, green routes and land allocated for a school.
But it borders Harlow Wood - which is known to be a habitat for rare birds the Woodlark and the Nighjar, and campaigners fear the development would put this vital habitat at risk.
Said Mr Dowen: “Mansfield District Council remains duty-bound to use all reasonable measures to avoid any deterioration of Harlow Wood.
“Now we are coming up to a new breeding season so they should be considered when the application goes back before the planning committee.”
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 Nighjar and Woodlark population.
Mr Dowen added: “It is inevitable that Harlow Wood will be declared an SPA and it is on this basis that we will be launching an appeal against the judge’s decision not to allow the review.
“We have now met with our legal representatives and it is likely we will meet this week to outline and submit our appeal.”
Developers will now have to submit an application for reserved matters at Mansfield District Council’s planning committee, which will provide more information about the development’s appearance, landscaping, layout and scale.
If this is accepted work is expected to begin on the site in 2015.
Mansfield mayor Tony Egginton said: “The Council is pleased with the outcome of the appeal.
“The Lindhurst development will provide much needed high quality family homes and up to 4,000 jobs for local people.
“Investment of this scale within our District is vital for the growth and prosperity of our area.”
A spokesman for Mansfield District Council said: “Judge Phillips found that this ground of the challenge was not unlawful but it may be arguable that it strains the language of the Section 106.
“The Judge did not see this as a problem as a new mechanism could provide the same degree of enforceability. Both the Council and interested parties agreed that it could be overcome and other mechanisms are currently being considered.
“The application for Reserved Matters will provide details about the appearance, landscaping, layout and scale of the development.