Mediation needed to settle 4,000-home development water dispute say campaigners

The High Court has permitted a local community’s legal challenge over the impact of a 4000 home development in Cambridgeshire on a nearby town’s water supply, but the claimant is seeking to settle the dispute with the council via mediation to avoid delays to housing provision.

Fews Lane Consortium (FLCL), acting on behalf of residents from a village in South Cambridgeshire, Longstanton, received permission in June for a judicial review of the local authority’s planning approval for phase 3A of the the construction of a neighbouring new town, Northstowe.

READ MORE: New town expansion faces court challenge over water supply decision


FLCL contends that South Cambridgeshire District Council approved 4,000 houses to be built without an adequate environmental impact assessment that would consider ‘issues of water supply’, and failed to publish the required statement of its reasoned conclusions of the environmental effects of the development. FLCL also says that the planning committee was misdirected about a possible deferral of the decision to obtain further environmental information.

In a letter to the leader of the council, FLCL director Daniel Fulton calls on the council to settle the dispute via mediation without the case having to go through court. The reason for this is that carrying out the judicial review may result in the council’s planning permission being quashed, and delays to housing being provided.

He wrote: “The consortium is also mindful that the only appropriate remedy available to the court is a quashing order, which would result in significant delays to the development of Northstowe, further delay the delivery of important community facilities, and potentially jeopardise the ability of the district council to maintain a five-year land supply for housing in the coming years.

“The purpose of this letter is to ask the district council to participate in mediation with an independent third party mediator in order to resolve the dispute.”

In a petition set up by FLCL to prompt the council to consider mediation that has around 200 signatures, the lawyers share that a report by hydrology consultancy HR Wallingford which suggests development of the new town has diverted groundwater from Londstanton and has allegedly resulted in ponds and wells drying up, and trees dying. FLCL claims the issues have been ongoing for seven years. The petition has received around 200 signatures.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Fews Lane Consortium has brought a case for Judicial Review of the decision by the Council's Planning Committee to grant planning permission for Northstowe Phase 3A.

“The council notes the court's decision permitting the challenge to proceed to a full hearing, and expects to explain to the court at that hearing how it has reached its conclusions on this application, and that it came to a lawful decision. As this is a live legal case, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

In a separate development reported by ENDS this week, a district council in East Sussex, Wealden, has said it will defer the majority of planning applications it has received until a ‘full and satisfactory’ report on how new housing will impact the sewage system is given by local water company, Southern Water. This includes plans for over 250 homes.

READ MORE: Plans for hundreds of homes deferred over sewage pollution fears