Louise Oldfield, who last year met defeat in her High Court challenge to the grant of planning permission for redevelopment of town landmark Arlington House and surrounding properties in Arlington Square, had asked two judges at London’s Court of Appeal to overturn that decision.
She ultimately hoped to thwart the development, which would include a Tesco superstore, that town centre champion and broadcaster Mary Portas had described as a "disturbing threat" to Margate’s regeneration.
However, Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lady Justice Macur today resoundingly backed the High Court ruling and the grant of planning permission, and rejected the claim that, in granting permission to developer Metropolitan Property Realizations Ltd (MPRL) in June 2013, the communities secretary failed to take into account the cumulative impacts of the development when linked with other parts of the regeneration of Margate, including plans to revive the Dreamland amusement park.
Lord Justice Maurice Kay said in his written judgment today: "I observe that the development of the Arlington site has received a great deal of consideration. Plainly the area adjacent to the seafront in Margate is in urgent need of appropriate regeneration. Apart from this relatively narrow appeal, there is no remaining objection to MPRL’s proposals for the site, subject to the conditions attached by the secretary of state to the planning permission.
"I do not question the genuineness of the appellant’s concerns but it is a fact that no objection is now pursued as to the qualitative nature of the planning permission as granted."
Lady Justice Macur added that she agreed with the findings of a planning inspector, on whose recomnmendation the communities secretary granted permission, that "the significant environmental effects were likely to be the free standing consequences of the Dreamland project and not of both projects considered cumulatively".
She described that conclusion as "unimpeachable".
The judges refused Oldfield permission to appeal further to the Supreme Court, bringing her legal fight to the end of the road unless she can subsequently persuade the Law Lords to entertain her case.
In the High Court decision backed by the court today, Lord Justice Moses had said there was no basis whatever to suggest that the Arlington project was not properly looked at as a whole for the purpose of considering its environmental impact and the likely significant effects of the impact.
But lawyer Jenny Wigley argued on Oldfield’s behalf at the appeal hearing in September that the judge was wrong, and that the environmental scrutiny of the proposal had been "flawed".
She said that the Arlington development site is adjacent to the Dreamland site on which there are Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings and where there is a proposed development of a large visitor attraction in the form of a "Heritage Amusement Park" anticipated to generate 350,000 visitors.
Rupert Warren QC argued on behalf of the communities secretary that the question of whether the Dreamland scheme’s effects should be taken into account so as to trigger EIA for the Arlington project had been dealt with on all three occasions – in the screening direction, by the inspector and the secretary of state – and that the High Court judge had been correct to decide the case as he did.
Arguing that the appeal should be dismissed, he said: "The defendant was entitled to reach the view that there were no cumulative effects arising from the proposed development which merited a finding that it was EIA development."
In October, Tesco announced that it had abandoned its plans for a new store at the site.
R on the Application of Oldfield v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: C1/2013/3776