Save our Protected Lane

by Help Widdington Parish Council's fundraising efforts

Save our Protected Lane

by Help Widdington Parish Council's fundraising efforts
Help Widdington Parish Council's fundraising efforts
Case Owner
Widdington Parish Council need help to fund a Judicial Review against Uttlesford District Council's decision to grant planning permission for a housing development on a Protected Lane in the village.
14
days to go
£26,915
pledged of £30,000 stretch target from 69 pledges
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Help Widdington Parish Council's fundraising efforts
Case Owner
Widdington Parish Council need help to fund a Judicial Review against Uttlesford District Council's decision to grant planning permission for a housing development on a Protected Lane in the village.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Dec. 20, 2022

Fundraising update

Thanks again to the amazing generosity of so many people, both in Widdington and beyond, we are delighted to have smashed through our initial target and even our first stretch target. 

However, w…

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Widdington is a quintessentially English village in the beautiful Essex countryside close to Saffron Walden. The historic village dates back to before the Doomsday Book in 1086 and has 46 Listed Buildings, out of just over 200 houses, including English Heritage’s 15th century Priors Hall Barn.

Widdington Parish Council is seeking crowdfunding support to bring a legal challenge to the granting of planning permission by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) in October 2022 on valuable, carbon-capturing meadowland in the centre of the village. This action is to try to protect our village from this unsympathetic development adjacent to the picturesque Cornells Lane, which is protected by designation in UDC’s Local Plan as a “Protected Lane” and is also within the Widdington Conservation Area. 

This is the latest in a long list of unwelcome planning applications that Widdington Parish Council have had to fund action against in recent years including a plan to build a bus depot on a pasture on the road into the village, repeated applications to turn remote, disused chicken sheds into houses and the expansion and industrialisation of the Widdington pit. These applications and numerous others have combined to significantly deplete the Parish Council’s available funds.

The shocking recent decision by UDC's Planning Committee to approve development on the meadow follows nearly five years of effort by the village to fight off numerous planning applications on the site which until now UDC had agreed should all be refused. The first application on the meadow was for 20 houses in 2018 after the land was acquired by a local GP who is also a Harley Street cosmetic surgeon. Because the land is in a prominent village location, and adjacent to Cornells Lane, which is one of the most highly rated Protected Lanes in the whole of Uttlesford, the Parish Council along with local District Councillors and village residents oppose development on sound planning grounds. In particular the damage that would be caused to Cornells Lane which is enjoyed daily by ramblers, dog-walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and has numerous Listed Buildings along it.

The need to form a large vehicular access onto the site would result in a more than 15 metre wide opening into the steep bank of the lane, while creating the required visibility splays would result in the removal of 86 metres of trees and vegetation which would irreparably harm the very features that contribute to the lane’s protected status and would also harm the conservation area. UDC agreed and refused a recent, nearly identical application in March 2022 because of the devastating impact that building the new access road would have on the Protected Lane as the existing access is not suitable for a housing estate access. In an attempt to have this decision overturned, the applicant has taken this case to a Planning Appeal where, due to the legal complexity of the case, a 1-2 day Hearing is scheduled for January 2023.

In the meantime, the applicant applied under permitted development legislation for a Certificate of Lawfulness ostensibly to hold a market on the site as a means to build the access road identical to the one refused in March 2022 in an attempt to circumvent the reasons for refusal. Saffron Walden Town Council have told the applicant that it would refuse permission for any form of market on the land, however, Uttlesford’s Planning Department granted the application saying that permitted development uses, other than markets, would technically be allowed under the legislation thus creating the possibility of the access road being formed without any consideration of the harmful impacts on Cornells Lane. If allowed to continue, then this access road would represent the first domestic intrusion into agricultural land on the north of Cornells Lane for over a mile and would set a dangerous precedent for future development on other agricultural land along this Protected Lane or indeed anywhere in open countryside on the outskirts of Widdington.

In our opinion, at the UDC Planning Committee meeting held in late October 2022, that resulted in granting of the planning permission that we seek to challenge, the Committee were given incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information or guidance by the Council’s Officer who failed to follow correct procedure and ensure that a balanced debate was held and who repeatedly advised the Planning Committee against deferring or refusing the application on any grounds raised by them. None of the Committee members had any meaningful knowledge of permitted development rights or certificates of lawfulness and one Committee member even stated that they had been “stitched up” by the proceedings.

The fact that the applicant had agreed to withdraw the appeal against the refusal of the previous application refused in March 2022 if this latest application was approved - thus saving Uttlesford the costs of defending their decision at the 1-2 day Hearing - was, in our opinion, a material consideration for this application being fast-tracked and why the Committee were strongly advised that they could not defer the application pending further information. The interventions by the Council Officer meant that the Planning Committee felt they had no choice but to approve the application. The Committee did have a choice, but the biased Officer guidance, and the inaccurate and misleading information from both the Planning Officer and the Council Officer, prevented the Committee from understanding the choices available to them. In spite of this guidance, the  Committee voted 4-4 with one abstention but the application was passed as the Committee’s Chair had voted to approve it.

Widdington Parish Council, supported by parish residents, are therefore fundraising to support the costs of launching a judicial review against the Council and the conduct of its officers as we do not consider that UDC has followed correct procedures thus leading to the decision made by UDC’s Planning Committee to approve this application regardless of any other material considerations including road safety, environmental damage, the Protected Lane status and the impact on adjacent Listed Buildings. The costs of this action are likely to be significant therefore we have launched this crowd fundraising initiative to help us to cover some of them.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this and for any financial support that you can spare, however small, in these troubling times.

Update 2

Help Widdington Parish Council's fundraising efforts

Dec. 20, 2022

Fundraising update

Thanks again to the amazing generosity of so many people, both in Widdington and beyond, we are delighted to have smashed through our initial target and even our first stretch target. 

However, we have recently been advised that UDC intend to defend the JR against them and so we will be continuing to raise funds over the coming weeks to support the Parish Council in their defence of our village.

As we have said before, all donations however small are hugely appreciated.

Many thanks

Update 1

Help Widdington Parish Council's fundraising efforts

Dec. 6, 2022

Progress update and thank you

Enormous thanks to the dozens of residents who have already donated to the Crowd Justice appeal which has so far raised almost £15,000 - plus a number of cheques that have been paid directly to WPC. The total costs of the Judicial Review are likely to exceed £25,000 with some funding coming from WPC reserves if necessary, although WPC’s funds have been severely depleted in recent years by needing to defend repeated applications by the Tees and many others such as Pond Mead, Malt Place and the proposed coach park opposite the donkey sanctuary. All donations regardless of how small are therefore greatly appreciated and would also help to show that the overwhelming majority of villagers object to this development.

WPC met on Thursday 1st December where the Chair reported that the first stage of the Judicial Review process had now been completed. On 11th November, WPC (via Richard Buxton Solicitors) sent a formal letter to Uttlesford District Council’s (UDC) Legal Department explaining the legal basis behind WPC’s belief that UDC’s Planning Committee's decision to approve the housing development on the meadow was flawed in law - known as a pre-action protocol letter (PAP). The WPC Chair also explained that UDC's reply to the PAP letter was unsatisfactory and, as previously agreed, the WPC would therefore proceed to the next stage which is to apply to the courts for permission to lodge the case. The test for obtaining permission is that the case is arguable in law, which WPC’s solicitors believe that it is. 

Just to reiterate, we are very grateful to those who have so generously contributed towards supporting WPC’s efforts to launch this Judicial Review. The fundraising efforts continue and any amount donated, large or small, is hugely appreciated.

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