NUNS AC­CUSED OF LAND FRAUD

Chiltern District Coun­cil fight­ing against home plans

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by TOM HER­BERT tom.her­bert@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twitter: @TRHer­bert

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

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