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Party Politics and Planning – Judicial Guidance

May 27, 2015

Party politics and planning issues met head to head as a judge rejected arguments that the membership of a council committee had been massaged in order to push through plans for a major regeneration project.

Objectors to the proposals claimed that a councillor who was likely to vote against the plans was substituted on the planning committee by another who was expected to be in favour. It was submitted that political machinations had been put in train deliberately to alter the outcome of the planning process.

However, in rejecting those submissions, the judge ruled that the selection of the committee members was part of the democratically elected political process and was thus a matter which was outwith the reach of the courts. There was, in any event, no evidence that the councillor who actually sat on the committee had a closed mind on the planning issues.

Claims that the council had taken the wrong approach to the protection of the areas heritage assets were also rejected as unarguable. The ruling opened the way for partial refurbishment, demolition and redevelopment of a shopping centre as part of a wider scheme, including new retail outlets and 142 new homes, more than 20 per cent of them affordable.