Walton sports hub work set to continue
But judicial review to probe legality of joint home for football teams and athletics club
A JUDICIAL review into Elmbridge Borough Council’s decision to grant itself planning permission for the sports hub in Walton has been allowed to go ahead by the High Court.
A group of Sunbury residents, along with the proprietors of the Weir Hotel in Waterside Drive neighbouring the sports hub site, were given leave on Wednesday last week to judicially review the planning decision and the case is likely to be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in the autumn.
According to Matt Davison, co-owner of The Weir, the judge said there was an arguable case that the council had erred in law in giving itself planning permission for the site, which would house Walton & Hersham FC, Walton Casuals FC and Walton Athletic Club.
Mr Davison said: “We are obviously pleased because all along we have thought the development here was potentially not right.
“When the council is judge and jury it should bend over backwards to make sure that it’s completely legal and above board and I don’t feel that it has which has been borne out by the judge’s judgement that there is an arguable case.
“I hope that the current council puts the development on hold until the review carried out by the judge.”
Muriel Bankhead, of Parke Road in Sunbury, agreed, saying: “As long as there is leave granted for the planning decision to be judicially reviewed the council cannot consider it has lawful planning permission and therefore cannot do the work.”
However, an Elmbridge Borough Council spokesman confirmed that work, currently at the remediation stage, will continue on site.
The spokesman said: “At the High Court on May 25, 2016 Mr Justice Supperstone decided that the claim brought to challenge the grant of planning permission for development at Waterside Drive could proceed to a hearing.
“Mr Justice Jay had earlier decided that the claim was not arguable. The council will accordingly prepare its case in defence to the claim on a date to be set by the court.”
Campaigners claim the council unlawfully applied the green belt policy and failed to protect the openness of the green belt.
They believe the decision should be quashed.
The judicial review is supported by the Campaign to Protect Rural England whose is Surrey branch director Andy Smith said: “We are pleased to hear that the judicial review will be going ahead.
“CPRE is supporting this legal challenge as we believe Elmbridge Council was wrong to grant permission for this development.
“It is inappropriate development in the green belt, which the council should never have approved, and we believe the process by which this decision was made was fundamentally flawed.”
Councillor Chris Sadler, portfolio holder for resources under the new Residents’ Group and Liberal Democrat administration, said: “Where we are is that it’s a very big project, it’s a controversial project, it’s something that we haven’t been directly involved in creating.
“We’ve been to various meetings but we haven’t been intimately involved in the way the previous administration were.
“We have had a brief discussion with the chief executive about it and agreed we should have a full briefing about it, which will take some time to do.”
A crowdfunding campaign will soon be launched to cover the costs of the judicial review.
Legal fight: Jenny Grant, Alan Doyle, John Hirsh and Muriel Bankhead gather petition signatures against the proposed sports hub in Walton.