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Legal moves ‘exhausted’ over unwanted housing
COUNCILLORS say their “hands are tied” over an unwanted housing estate planned for Abingdon.
Abingdon residents, councillors and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood have fought the plan to build 160 homes off Drayton Road since it was revealed in October.
Vale of White Horse District Council refused the plans in January, saying the estate would add to already unacceptable congestion on Drayton Road.
Developers Hallam fought that decision and won permission on appeal last month.
In the past month, the district council has sought the legal advice of two barristers, including Mark Lowe QC, thought to be one of the leading QCs in the country on planning matters.
The Vale said the advice received made it clear there were no grounds on which the council could pursue a judicial review of the decision.
Council leader Matthew Barber said: “Sadly, we’ve exhausted all of our options and it looks like we have no more legal avenues we can follow.
“It’s enormously frustrating, but the only way we could have challenged the decision would have been if the planning inspector’s decision was legally unsound.
“We will now have to rely on the condition imposed by the planning inspector that a satisfactory transport solution must be found and implemented before any house building takes place.”
When the Government’s planning inspector John Watson granted the scheme permission at the appeal, he set the condition that before any houses are built work must begin on two new pedestrian crossings to help alleviate traffic.
The idea behind the crossings on Marcham Road and Ock Street is that pedestrians using them to cross will break up the flow of traffic running in and out of Abingdon at rush hour, allowing queuing cars on Drayton Road to enter the flow.
Mr Barber added: “We fought this application throughout and have now obtained expert advice that we have no grounds on which to challenge the decision through the courts.
“If we had gone ahead, it is extremely unlikely that we could have succeeded – we can’t waste taxpayers’ money chasing a lost cause.”
House building is still not likely to begin soon.
Hallam cannot begin construction until Oxfordshire County Council confirms that pedestrian crossings will be created and, before the crossings can be approved, the county must conduct a public consultation on their creation.
Retiree Peter Dodd, who lives on Virginia Way with his wife Anne, said: “This was our last chance. It is a shame that it is the inspector’s decision which overrides everyone else in the town.” He said he felt let down by the planning process, but not by the Vale.
Mr Barber said there was a chance that the county council could conclude the two crossings were not feasible, meaning the houses could not be built.
The six-week deadline for challenges to the appeal decision is tomorrow.
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