Stroud District Council

News

Challenge to M5 motorway service area thrown out by High Court

Release Date: 08 February 2012

The High Court in Birmingham has dismissed all challenges to the recent planning application for a new motorway service area south of Junction 11a on the M5. Mr Justice Bean heard arguments over the period on 17th -18th January 2012, as to why Welcome Break and Roadchef , the operators of service stations at Strensham (to the North) and Michaelwood (to the South) thought that Stroud District Council had made a mistake in law by granting permission.

Justice Bean agreed that the Council had fully considered all the issues raised and had done so reasonably. The Judge also commented on the rigour by which both the officers and councillors had deliberated the material considerations, doing so in great detail through a 245 page committee report and over 2 hours of debate.

Mr Justice Bean was critical of the claimant's arguments on key issues such as the need for "core" motorway service areas and Government policies on reducing travel times between rest areas. In particular it was agreed that there was a recognised gap in provision between the M50 at Ross on Wye and Michaelwood on the M5 and the Claimants report was "flawed by the error in treating the proposal as being one for an infill MSA" rather than a core MSA. (para 34).

The Claimants, including the local parish councils, also attempted to argue that a legal agreement, entered into by the applicant and the Council to ensure that a significant proportion of goods on sale were sourced locally, was unlawful. It appears perverse, given that the agreement would be competitively beneficial to Welcome Break and Roadchef, that they would wish to challenge this element. Mr Justice Bean felt that the agreement was legitimate and in accordance with Government Policy.

The District Council will receive all its costs in defending this action from Welcome Break and Roadchef. The amount is yet to be calculated and submitted to the Court, but is believed to be in the region of £20k to £30k and covers both officer time and legal support. Welcome Break and Roadchef have agreed to cover the parishes' proportion of these costs.

The Council is aware that the applicant is preparing drawings and details to deal with many of the conditions within the permission, and will be considering them over the next few months. We are not aware of a commencement date for the project at this time.

Philip Skill (Head of Planning) says

"The decision of the High Court to throw out the challenge to the legitimacy of the Council's decision is great news and reinforces successes such as defending the call in by the Secretary of State on Huntsgrove. Once again the robustness of the Council's procedures in making these difficult decisions has been proven robust and fit for purpose".

For Background:-

The High Court gave Judgement in the above Judicial Review case on Friday 3 February.

The case was brought by Welcome Break Limited (1) Roadchef Limited (2) Brookthorpe with Whaddon Parish Council (3) Harescombe Parish Council (4) and the Campaign Against Motorway Service Area (5) against the Council's decision to grant planning permission to Gloucestershire Gateway Limited for a Motorway Service Area on the M5 at Ongers Farm.

The Claimants were seeking to challenge the legality of the Council's decision on four grounds relating to need, landscape impact and planning obligations securing local sourcing of food and a local employment/training policy.

The case was heard before Mr Justice Bean in the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre on 17th -18th January 2012.

The High Court has not upheld any of the grounds of challenge to the lawfulness of the Council's decision to grant planning permission for the proposed MSA and the application for Judicial Review has been dismissed in its entirety.

Therefore, the planning permission for the MSA remains lawful and implementable. The Claimants were refused leave to appeal by Mr Justice Bean, but may make an appeal directly to the Court Of Appeal within 21 Days.

A copy of Judgement and Costs/Appeal details available below:

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