Judge rejects bid to prevent 150-home West Yorkshire scheme on EIA grounds

A judge has dismissed a legal challenge against a government decision not to require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be carried out for a proposed 150-home development in West Yorkshire, after concluding that the claimant's argument was 'based on an unduly forensic and nit-picking reading' of the Whitehall ruling.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

James Kenyon and other residents have for years fought proposals to redevelop the disused Hemsworth Sports Complex in the town of Hemsworth, near Pontefract, for housing.

The first outline planning application to develop the site was granted in 2010, but that was overturned by the High Court in 2012.

Wakefield Council resolved to grant fresh consent in 2013, but a second permission, granted in 2016, was again quashed, this time by consent.

Kenyon has argued throughout that no development of the site should be permitted without carrying out a full environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The site is partially contaminated, having been used as a brickworks quarry in the past, later also being used for landfill and other purposes.

And Kenyon argues that the housing project would cause odour, dust and an increase in traffic likely to have an impact on air quality in the area.

The campaign to block the project suffered a setback when the council issued "screening opinions", stating that an EIA was unnecessary.

And, in December 2016, the then Department for the Communities and Local Government agreed with the council, refusing to direct an EIA.

Although the project met the definition of an "urban development project", the department said it was "not likely to have significant effects on the environment."

Any environmental impacts were no greater than would ordinarily be expected of an urban development proposal on an existing developed site, the government argued.

Challenging that decision, Kenyon pointed out that the site is one of five allocated for new housing in Hemsworth.

The department, he argued, had failed to consider the "cumulative environmental effects" of developer Saul Construction Limited's proposals.

It was also submitted that the department placed "undue reliance" on conditions attached to any planning consent to remedy adverse environmental impacts.

Dismissing Kenyon's judicial review challenge, however, Mrs Justice Lang could find no legal flaw in the department's decision letter.

Claims that pollution and air quality issues had not been properly considered were "based on an unduly forensic and nit-picking reading" of the decision.

The department reached a "considered judgment" that there would be no significant cumulative impact on air quality.

And it had not been shown that the department's assessment that there was no likelihood of significant environmental effects was arguably wrong.

Last week, a developer failed in its High Court bid to avoid paying a £550,000 community infrastructure levy (CIL) bill after a judge dismissed its argument that the property concerned was already in residential use when the charge was issued.

Also last week, plans for a mixed-use development in west London, including a new superstore and 221 flats, were given the green light by a High Court judge, after a rival supermarket unsuccessfully tried to halt the scheme.

R on the Application of Kenyon v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/424/2017

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