NUNS ACCUSED OF LAND FRAUD
Chiltern District Council fighting against home plans
NUNS at the centre of a development battle in Chalfont St Peter have been accused of a multi-million pound land fraud.
The Sisters of the Holy Cross are being taken to court over claims they lied to Chiltern District Council (CDC) in 2010.
Chalfont St Peter Parish Council (CSPPC) is alleging that the Roman Catholic Order committed conspiracy to defraud when they submitted plans to convert the Holy Cross Convent School into housing.
The sisters applied to have the claim by CSPPC struck out or for summary judgment to be granted.
But on April 10, the High Court rejected this application and allowed CSPPC to proceed with its claim against the nuns.
Six years ago, CDC granted permission to allow hundreds of homes to be built on the historic site, and with planning consent secured the nuns then sold it to Persimmon Homes for more than £31 million.
The controversial decision was met with disapproval and culminated in CSPPC taking CDC to court over the decision – a case which they eventually lost on appeal.
The parish council argues the sisters fraudulently misled CDC as to the number of playing fields on the site. CSPPC say there were two areas of land that were being used as formal sports facilities.
But it is alleged the nuns claimed only one formal sports area, with the larger 1.2 hectare area being used for informal purposes only.
When permission was granted, the plans only provided for the replacement of the smaller sports pitch, allowing the larger area to be developed into houses.
The judgment says that if there were two playing fields, the plans could have been refused under the local authority’s policy on loss of sports facilities.
The parish council also alleges the trust intended to interfere or prevent their plan to relocate the Chalfont St Peter Church of England School there. There is no suggestion that Persimmon Homes was aware of the alleged misrepresentations.
A statement from CSPPC reads: “The parish council’s claim arises from a highly contentious decision by CDC in August 2010 to permit the sisters to have planning consent
allowing the wide-scale residential development of the former site of the Holy Cross School.
“The original decision of CDC was challenged by the parish council through a series of applications and appeals to the High Court, which were ultimately unsuccessful.
“This latest challenge alleges that the sisters fraudulently conspired to misrepresent the historic use of the school playing fields during the course of their planning application.”
Campaign group Sense for Chalfont St Peter (Sense4CSP) said: “This action is very much in the public interest and Sense4CSP looks forward to, and will keep a strong eye on, its continuance and conclusion.”
A spokesperson for the Trustees of the Holy Cross Sisters said: “We are disappointed that the court did not accept that the claim was an abuse of process or that summary judgment should be granted. Nevertheless, we continue to believe that the parish council’s claims are entirely without merit.
“The parish council’s allegations are rejected in full and we will now proceed to defend the claim robustly.”
The Holy Cross site