The Forestry Commission has failed in a High Court battle to overturn a government decision which rejected planning consent for a controversial holiday park in Delamere Forest.
Former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles over-ruled Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee decision to grant permission for the 70-cabin scheme by the Forestry Commission/Forest Holidays.
This came after a government inspector weighed up the pros and cons and decided that, on balance, the scheme was inappropriate because of the harm to the green belt.
Both organisations took the case to London’s High Court but one of the country’s top judges, Mrs Justice Lang, backed Mr Pickles.
Dismissing the challenge, she said: “Both the inspector and the first defendant concluded that the proposed cabins development was contrary to policy because it was ‘inappropriate development’ in the green belt without very special circumstances sufficient to outweigh the harm to the green belt and any other harm arising out of the development.”
Mr Pickles had called in the application to decide himself because of a concern the proposal might conflict with national green belt policy.
Jubilant campaigner Nigel Gilding, of Communities Against Delamere’s Destruction (CADD), commented: “The decision reached in the High Court vindicates the stand made by local people for a local issue, but the ruling has truly national importance as it sends a clear message to developers that green belt is designated for a reason”.
“This process has been going on for years. Through consultation, subsequent planning application, public inquiry and finally this High Court challenge. It’s been tough at times but the tenacity of the CADD followers and all those who gave time and money to the cause has been seen to have paid off in this David and Goliath contest.
“It’s unfortunate that the intransigence of the CWaC planning department in refusing to listen and objectively assess reasonable, powerful argument of their own planning policy resulted in the application getting this far.
“It should not be forgotten that those councillors on the strategic planning committee who rubber stamped this proposal have been proved to be wrong.
“If the council were a commercial entity, heads would roll on the back of this decision. It will be interesting to see if any one of them have the decency and the courage of their convictions to resign as would be appropriate. Somehow, I think not.”
In a joint statement, the applicants previously expressed disappointment at Mr Pickles’ decision and hinted at the possibility of a legal challenge.
The statement read: “Forestry Commission England and Forest Holidays are expectedly disappointed that the Delamere Forest planning proposal has been unsuccessful, despite being found to have significant economic benefits, visual improvements, access and traffic management improvements and providing enhanced biodiversity for the forest.
“We are currently reviewing the Secretary of State’s decision and considering our options concerning our ambitions at this site.”