Judge throws out Grantham bypass objection

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A High Court challenge to multi-million pound plans for a new relief road to ease Grantham’s traffic congestion has been dismissed by one of the country’s top judges.

Mr Justice Lewis, sitting in the new Planning Court in London on Friday, rejected a Grantham landowner’s claim that the full environmental impact of the relief road had not been considered together with plans for up to 4,000 new homes that are expected to be unlocked by the scheme.

The judge refused Larkfleet Ltd permission for a full hearing of its bid to have South Kesteven District Council’s grant of planning permission for the relief road to the south of Grantham quashed.

The road will link the A1 and the A52 and is planned to ease traffic congestion in Grantham town centre, and the judge said it has been a “long-standing” aim of the council since 2007.

But Larkfleet claimed that, in truth, it should be considered part of a single project with plans for an urban extension area of up to 4,000 new homes.

It argued that the relief road is likely to provide access to the new urban extension to the south of the town, and that it is unlikely to proceed without a financial contribution from housing developers. As a result, it claimed that the council wrongly failed to consider the cumulative impacts of the road and the housing development together.

It argued that the local authority fell short of its duties under European Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations.

But the judge rejected its complaints. He found that while it could be said that the road and the housing development were linked, the two projects were “separate” for EIA purposes.

He said Lincolnshire County Council, as highway authority, applied for planning permission for the relief road, while a different commercial enterprise, Buckminster, was engaged in the process of bringing the urban extension to fruition, with no planning application having yet been made.

Though he said that SKDC will likely only be able to realise plans for the relief road if they can obtain a financial contribution from the development, he found that it was a “long-term aspiration” for the town and an infrastructure project seen as key to Grantham’s economic growth.

He said that Larkfleet has land to the north of Grantham which they say is more suitable for an urban extension and that their basic submission was that, where there are two interlinked projects, the local authority has to assess the environmental effects as if they were a single project.

But, rejecting the claim, he said: “In my judgment the relevant development here is the link road. That is clearly a separate development from the extension area.

“The southern relief road was the development for which planning permission was applied. It is a development which represents a freestanding and long held policy aim on the part of the local authority. It will facilitate economic development generally within the locality and it will specifically facilitate the proposed urban extension area. Whilst it will facilitate other developments it is not part and parcel of those other developments.

“These are quite separate projects with separate aims carried out by separate people, one which has planning permission, one which has not even progressed to the stage of an application for planning permission.”

He added that the environmental effects of the urban extension will have to be considered in due course.

** Larkfleet’s hopes for development north of Grantham

* Larkfleet revealed plans in 2009 to build 1,000 homes in Manthorpe on land south of Belton Lane and west of the A607. It included a new primary school, retirement community, neighbourhood centre, health facility and hotel.

* The application was rejected by South Kesteven District Council in January 2011.

* Larkfleet went over the planning authority’s head and appealed directly to the Planning Inspectorate. This led to an eight day planning inquiry in Grantham in November 2011.

* In March 2012, the developer’s plan was rejected by the Government planning inspector, vindicating SKDC’s earlier decision to reject the proposal. The inspector agreed that a development of that size in the Manthorpe area would heavily impact on an already overworked road system, as well as cause damage to the heritage of the area, including Belton House and Belton Park.

* In January 2013, managing director of Larkfleet, Karl Hicks, hit out through the pages of the Journal at the county council’s decision to build the relief road using taxpayers’ money. This came after LCC announced it would loan £30 million of public funds to build the road connecting the A1 and A52. Mr Hick said the council may be unable to claim the money back. However, LCC insisted the money would be recovered from developers.

* Larkfleet has held two workshops since, entitled ‘Unlocking Growth in Grantham’. The developer said they aim to discuss ideas for growth in the town, and they were attended by businessmen locally and other developers and parties.