The borough council’s planning committee originally granted planning permission for the bridge build in March 2021. This decision was upheld in January 2022 following a Judicial Review challenge by Ashchurch Rural Parish Council (ARPC).
In December 2022, ARPC appealed the High Court decision, and it has been announced today (Tuesday, 7 February 2023) that the Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of ARPC.
This latest decision means that the application would need to be resubmitted to the planning committee for consideration.
The court’s reasons for overturning the decision are detailed but include:
- The report to planning committee considered certain benefits of the development but did not invite the committee to take similar consideration of any adverse impact.
- The council (as the planning authority considering the application) didn’t take the legally correct approach to the decision as to whether an environmental impact assessment was required. The bridge was regarded as a standalone project rather than considering the planned future development. The formal opinion to determine the need for an environmental impact assessment was therefore, in the court’s view, not correctly approached.
Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Chief Executive, Alistair Cunningham said: “This is a disappointing outcome, and we will now carefully review the judgement and our options.
“If we decide not to challenge this decision, our planning committee will be required to redetermine the application for a bridge – and clearly within an application it will be critical that the judge’s comments are addressed.
“However, this court decision in itself won’t stop development in this area. It is a clear example of how when trying to deliver infrastructure ahead of housing growth, even a local authority faces real challenges given the complexity of the planning system.”
The outcome of this appeal means the borough council will also be required to pay ARPC’s legal costs, which are anticipated to be £70,000. The total cost to the council, including its own costs, is expected to be over £200,000.
The submitted road bridge application was an early infrastructure intervention following best practice principles to enable an access road, cycle path and walkway to potential housing development in the northern Ashchurch area.
According to the Office of National Statistics, Tewkesbury Borough has seen the most rapid economic growth of any area outside London, with a population increase of 10% since 2015 and 2.5% in 2020/21 alone.
Tewkesbury Borough Council has an important role to play in managing this growth and advocating high-quality development, guided by garden town principles.
Tewkesbury was awarded Garden Town status in 2019 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities).
The concept aims to provide well-designed, mixed-tenure homes and more than 100 hectares of employment land to the east of Tewkesbury, bringing significant numbers of jobs and opportunities to live and work within the area.
The development will include new schools, health, and community facilities and sustainably- designed houses, as well as walk-cycle greenways and improved links to the railway station.
The garden town principles are:
- Respect existing communities and reflect local character.
- A strong identity and character of place.
- Interconnected blue infrastructure celebrating water.
- A carbon-neutral community and building sustainably for climate resilience.
- Fantastic green spaces for people and spaces.
- Sustainable, wider connectivity.
- Integrated live, work, place communities.
- Mixed tenure homes, housing types, and densities for diverse communities.
- A social model for sustainability.
Through the garden town, the borough council will shape development in the area over the next 30 years, working with landowners, contractors, local organisations, and government agencies to help facilitate the delivery of new roads and facilities, well-designed, sustainable homes and business zones.