Yesterday, CPRE Oxfordshire took its case for a Judicial Review into the planning permission for the University accommodation blocks at Port Meadow to the High Court in Birmingham.
Permission refused as campaign 'already won'
The Judge Mr Justice Lewis ruled against a Judicial Review. He based his judgement on commitments made in Court by Oxford City Council and Oxford University to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with full public consultation. On this basis the Judge decided to trust them to do the right thing and said that the legal case would not need to be taken forward beyond today's hearing.
Helen Marshall, Director, CPRE Oxfordshire said: "The reason we didn't get permission to take this further is that, in the Judge's view, we have already effectively won our argument about the need for an EIA."
The consultation we never had
Earlier this summer, after CPRE had launched the legal claim, the University offered to undertake a "voluntary" EIA but our fears were that this would be a whitewash. Now, this judgement puts the spotlight on the Council and University to honour the commitments they made in Court, and to take meaningful steps to address the impact of the Port Meadow blocks properly.
This includes a full public consultation – a chance for everyone deprived of their say in regards to the original application to express their views on the impact of the buildings.
Naturally we will be keeping a close eye to ensure this is the case – we don't have quite the faith the Judge has in our wonderful institutions! We have had to push the Council and the University every step of the way with this.
City Council can't claim costs
Significantly, the Judge also turned down the City Council's application for costs against us, which amounted to over £8,000. It underlines the merits of our case and vindicates our decision to pursue it. It also leaves us with a potential fighting fund to go back to court if we feel that the voluntary Environmental Impact Assessment is not handled correctly.
Failures in the planning system & Independent Review
Mr. Justice Lewis did not absolve the Council over their planning process to date, in spite of the City Council declaring that the Judge found no fault with the process. The Judge actually said he 'took no view' on these issues.
The Council's Independent Review into the processes is continuing and we are sharing with it all the information pulled together for the Court case. This is the first such Review the Council has instigated in years and was only brought about by pressure from our campaign.
A huge thank you to all our campaign supporters – we simply couldn't have done this without you. We hope you agree that this has been worthwhile. We certainly believe that any future developments of this nature will be looked at with much more care to avoid similar fiascos in the future.
With regards to Port Meadow, we now have a commitment in Court from the Council and the University to carry out the full Environmental Impact Assessment and consultation that we always wanted.
We will hold them to these promises.