Government considers calling in controversial 5,000-home Lodge Hill decision

Out-Law News | 26 Sep 2014 | 5:17 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has announced that it is considering whether to ‘call in’ a controversial planning application for a large housing development at a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) in Kent.

Medway Council resolved earlier this month to approve developer Land Securities' outline plans for a 5,000-home development at the former army training ground at Lodge Hill. The site was allocated as an SSSI by government conservation advisor Natural England last year, due to the presence of a nationally significant population of nightingales and the presence of special grassland and woodland.

The Council received 590 letters of objection to the proposals and the decision to grant planning permission was immediately followed by calls from groups such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Kent Wildlife Trust for the government to take the decision out of the Council's hands.

The government has the power to take over individual planning applications, rather than allowing them to be decided by a local planning authority. According to government policy, decisions may be considered for ‘calling in’ where they are of “more than local importance”, including where they “may conflict with national policies on important matters” or “give rise to substantial cross-boundary or national controversy”.

The government released a statement on Thursday stating that it was considering whether to call in the Lodge Hill application, but that, as a member of the RSPB, secretary of state Eric Pickles would not be responsible for deciding the application.

“There have been a number of campaigns by organisations including the RSPB for the government to ‘call-in’ a planning application for 5,000 new homes on the Lodge Hill site in Medway,” said the statement.

“This request for a call-in is being carefully considered with due process – but this should not be confused with a decision on the merits of the substantive application. Given the secretary of state’s membership of the RSPB, the quasi-judicial decision will be made by a different planning minister in line with standard propriety guidance.”