The Southborough Hub Planning Application has been approved by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, despite the objections of Sport England to the loss of recreation space.
The decision of Mr Javid (pictured below) was expected as central government generally only intervenes in cases of “national significance”. Mr Javid could have overruled the local planning authority and “called in” the application for it to be examined by an independent public inquiry .
It is understood that the outright objections from Sport England and the Football Association to the current Hub scheme remained and were considered by the central government planning casework officer, but their objections were not considered important enough to warrant a “call in.”
A letter sent by Karen Partridge, a Planning Manager at the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council dated 19th December says:
“I refer to your email of 29 November referring to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (“The Secretary of State”) an application for planning permission for the above development. The Secretary of State has carefully considered the case against call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26 October 2012. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.”
The statement continues: “The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible. In deciding whether to call in the application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that applications should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in the application. He is content that the application should be determined by the local planning authority.
It ends: “In considering whether to exercise the discretion to call in the application, the Secretary of State has not considered the matter of whether the application is EIA Development for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. The local planning authority responsible for determining these applications remains the relevant authority responsible for considering whether these Regulations apply to these proposed developments and, if so, for ensuring that the requirements of the Regulations are complied with.”