Council accidentally gave planning permission for supermarket
A COUNCIL planning blunder means a new supermarket could spring up in Tavistock – against the town's own wishes.
West Devon Borough Council is locked in a legal battle after granting planning consent by mistake, London's High Court heard yesterday.
Now the council must fork out an estimated £500,000 in compensation to formally revoke consent.
Or the authority can do nothing – despite the fact that would pave the way for a new supermarket to move in at the Tavistock Retail Park at Plymouth Road Industrial Estate.
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The council itself says a new supermarket is not needed in Tavistock, and would hit the town's retail trade.
The council is barred by law from the cheaper option of challenging it's own decision in the High Court.
But, in a bid to still have the mistake judicially reviewed by one of the country's top judges, council leader Philip Sanders launched a personal action seeking permission to bring judicial review proceedings on his own behalf.
In the action he would have asked the court to quash the planning consent at the centre of the complex row.
However, yesterday Deputy Judge David Elvin QC ruled that Cllr Sanders had left it too late in launching proceedings seven months after the decision was made.
He refused to extend time beyond the usual strict three month time limit for bringing judicial review proceedings, leaving the council having to consider whether or not to risk paying out a fortune in compensation by taking revocation action.
The court was told that in July 2011, council officers granted permission for the former Focus DIY store to be split into two units.
However, in doing this they failed to maintain restrictions that were included in the initial 2007 permission for the building, limiting it to non-food retail use.
The council accepts that its fresh decision effectively paved the way for unrestricted retail use of the units, potentially including a supermarket.
But it says that if it revoked the planning permission it could face having to pay up to £500,000 in compensation to retail park owners Marchfield Properties.
The judge, in addition to refusing permission for a court challenge, also ordered that Marchfield's legal costs run up on yesterday's hearing should be paid.
It is not known whether Cllr Sanders will have to put his hand in his own pocket to do this or whether the council will pay them.
So far no figure has been put on them, the court was told.
In his legal argument Cllr Sanders claimed that the council officers acted unlawfully in granting permission, and misinterpreted the legal position.
They were wrongly under the impression that the restriction on food retail would remain in place, he said.
He claimed that no reasonable decision-maker would have granted this permission.
However, Marchfield argued that it has incurred substantial costs in reliance on the planning permission and they would be prejudiced by the time it would take for a full hearing.
Yesterday's hearing may not be the end of the matter though.
Marchfield's lawyers said that there were already other "impediments" in the way of the units being used by supermarkets including car parking facilities which will require further fresh planning permission.