Working on behalf of the Community

28th April 2023

Balancing housing needs and curlew conservation: More detail on West Acre Park approval (onthewight.com)

Isle of Wight’s West Acre Park development hangs in the balance: What’s next for the 473-home project? (onthewight.com)

Isle of Wight Ryde housing development a step closer | Isle of Wight County Press

West Acre Park approved – Case for Judicial Review

On the 25th April 2023, IWC Planning Committee voted 6 to 5 to approve planning permission for West Acre Park of 472 houses with the addition of a mitigation plan for Solent Waters and Migration Birds including the Curlew. The approval vote followed a motion to refuse which was defeated by 6 to 5. I am personally devastated as I feel yet again that decisions have been made that in my view in confusion and with significant flaws in procedure and process.

This meeting followed on from a much publicised planning meeting of 27th July 2021 the details of which are in the hands of lawyers. The voices and views of the residents of Ryde where simply overridden by the majority of planning committee members on the 25th April 2023.

There have been 4286 signatories of support for refusal, 570 objections on the Planning portal. There are over 400 contributors on the Save Westridge Farm Crowdfunding site calling for Judicial Review of this application. A serious material consideration by the Committee should have been on the 27th July 2021 and 25th April 2023 attributed to this public interest. The majority of objections quote correct policy references support of refusal compared to a mere 4 letters of support.

This application process has never been about housing against environment and green fields. Ryde needs both, we need social rented housing but we also have a deficit in green space. WAP is located long side the three of the poorest wards on the Isle of Wight where families have little access to nature and outside environment compared to those privileged to live in an AONB area. This application has been however now not about these things but about whether proper process has been followed. It is about evidence, facts and law.

Serious exclusions of material considerations remain at the heart of this application decision arising from WAP being in fact a habitat protected site and lawyers are scrutinising those exclusions.

There are legal reasons why I cannot make my statement as comprehensive as I would like to but having seen the evidence I am confident that the process is littered with errors both legal and factual together with wilful misleading of the committee by the Council. . This has continued over the past 2 years and continued on 25th April 2023..

As Ryde Appley and Elmfield Ward Councillor I have spent the last few years emailing solidly pointing out mistakes and omissions and was doing this the day before the meeting when I spotted misinformation about reference to a GP surgery in the planning officer’s latest report.

Misinformation on GP Surgeries

Captiva Homes in the submission to the Planning Committee and within the IWC’s case officer’s report, there is mention that a new GP Surgery will be built within the West Acre site. This claim has also been made in the press. This claim is factually incorrect and misleading. There have undeniably been discussions between the developer and GPs and Integrated Care Board (NHS) but this is not a new surgery but in fact discussions about Ryde Esplanade surgery moving from present site to West Acre Park. I believe WAP is one of the options within a consultant’s report and a long way off a decision. Below I quoted from an email/letter I received from Integrated Care Board (NHS). You will see clearly a whole process of consultation and considerations have to be made before any final decision has been made. I have made a strong complaint to the ICB and IWC Planning Department that information about current tentative discussions on a GP Surgery at WAP on Planning Portal and in Case Officer’s report as additional material were incorrect, misleading, and would stress current Ryde Esplanade patients who have been provided no information about this potential move.

Councillor Lilley challenges ‘misleading’ claims over West Acre Park GP surgery (onthewight.com)

Quote for NHS Integrated Care Board on Current Position on GP Surgeries in Ryde “As you are aware, there is significant demand for GP services across the Island and in some cases there is an urgent need for practices to secure more appropriate new premises. Esplanade Surgery in Ryde has been looking for a potential new site to replace its current, ageing facility for some time now. To this end they had briefed a primary care consultant for a report into the feasibility of various sites that could one of which is within the new West Acre development that could meet their needs. To clarify, this is an already existing surgery and staff team that are increasingly finding it hard to deliver the Primary Care Service that they want to from their existing location. Though we think this site within the new development is promising, we are still in the early stages of this process and are supporting the Esplanade team as the local Isle of Wight ICB. For this reason, and the fact that other sites have been under consideration over an extended period of time, we have not wanted to announce details of potential new sites until they are closer to reality. This is to avoid raising expectations or causing undue concern among the community about a move which is likely to take considerable time. Rest assured, if the West Acre site (or any other location) does progress (subject to all due process), we will of course be carrying out a thorough process of patient and community engagement involving all our partners.   I trust this answers your query; the potentially long timescales involved, the usual planning processes any new surgery building would be subject to would make it difficult at this stage to undertake engagement and raise concerns or expectations.”

This GP misinformation is just the hundreds of examples of how this contentious and controversial application has been handled.

Unfortunately and tragically WAP has turned into a political issue and has not been decided legally and on planning terms upon which it should.

IWC Council Planning Committee has now made at this point their final decision to approve and this will lead to consent being given. It is my view this is wrong and not fair. The fight internally within the IW Council process is exhausted at this stage as a vote and decision has been made and I believe only appealing to the courts will my residents get any justice. I believe that residents do have a case for Judicial Review but it has to be their decision to proceed. They need to consult with their solicitors and amongst themselves and I will be making sure there is consultation so everyone is clear what is involved including the risks. I will continue to represent the voices and wishes of Ryde Appley and Elmfield residents until justice is done and the matter returns to a level playing field.

The next Ryde Appley and Elmfield Ward Meeting is on Thursday 4th May at 7pm at St. John’s Church Hall, High Park Road. There will be an opportunity to discuss the WAP decision and ask questions.

Cllr Michael Lilley – Ryde Appley and Elmfield 

Isle of Wight council defends procedures in West Acre Park saga asJudicial Review looms (onthewight.com)

For Reference: My Speech at IWC Planning Committee on Tuesday 25th April

I was elected to stand up for upholding the rights and advocating the voices of the residents of Ryde Appley and Elmfield and Ryde. I want to make sure their voices are clearly heard to-night.

There have been 4286 signatories of support for refusal, 570 objections on the Planning portal. There are over 400 contributors on the Save Westridge Farm Crowdfunding site calling for Judicial Review of this application. A serious material consideration should be attributed to this public interest. The majority of objections quote correct policy references support of refusal compared to a mere 4 letters of support.

This application is not about housing against environment and green fields. Ryde needs both, we need social rented housing but we also have a deficit in green space. WAP is located long side the three of the poorest wards on the Isle of Wight where families have little access to nature and outside environment compared to those privileged to live in an AONB area. This application is however now not about these things but about whether proper process has been followed. It is about evidence, facts and law.

On the 21st July 2021 meeting, there was a significant error, a significant mistake and missing facts that would have meant the weighting of evidence would have been to refusal not approval. I quote from an email to IWC LPA dated 24th June 2022 from Natural England on the planning portal highlights it was the applicant not submitting assessments relating to the Curlew:

The Isle of Wight Council’s Appropriate Assessment which also does not include reference to this supporting habitat. The site supports a number of Curlew. I would suggest it is unlikely that the use of the site as SANG would be sympathetic to the ongoing suitability of the site for the qualifying features of the SPA

This is a very serious exclusion as the WAP site is in fact a habitat protected site. NPPF para 182 and 180 states the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply to the destruction of a habitat protected site. There is a very real risk that curlew will be lost as a breeding species in lowland Southern England. This means that every Curlew counts and any survey and assessment has to be detailed and thorough.

The Curlew do change the whole weighting as presented on the 21st July. The presumption in favour of sustainable development is the single justification which the applicant and IWC officers are relying on. Planning Officers are maintaining that the original vote to grant permission should be a material consideration but this cannot be the case as the correct Habitat Assessment not produced at that meeting as required by the correct Habitat assessment required by the Habitats and Wild Birds directives, paragraph 5.5 of the Core Plan and para 182 of the NPPF. These regulations are set down by Parliament and cannot be overridden by this council or NPPF – there is clear evidence these directives have not been met especially regulation 6(3). Therefore, the application would have been needed to have been lawfully refused outright of on the 2021 meeting.

The law in relation to the compilation of habitat assessments is very clear: You have a duty as the LPA committee that the strict legal tests set out in the Habitats Directive must be adhered in order for you to have an informed vote. The evidence is simply not there. There has been no consultation with Town or Parish Councils, no consultation with the community/residents. The mitigation plan reduces the site significantly to an alternative site that has had no proper assessment. No consideration of cumulative effects of 5 very close by full or outline planning permissions which are on green field sites. The only count of Curlews was in 2018-19 which was short-term and now out of date. The Game and Conservation Trust clearly states the data is not robust, 15 curlews is not insignificant, the proposed new habitat landscape is not attractive and the presence of other developments opposed to developments may in fact deter the curlews. The mitigation land being offered in the new proposals covers 6.4 ha and so there is, on paper, a 4.87 ha net loss. It is not acceptable to almost halve the allocation given to IOW46. This does not adhere to the Environmental Act 2021.

Lastly, Great weight still has to be taken into account of the human rights of residents. Whilst the tenant farmer of the site has left due to having no alternative to accept a private deal with developer/landowner, the agreement did not account the rights of the farmers’ children living in the farm house. This deal was concluded with the rights of the children being forfeited. Officers have failed to take into account of their best interests. Article 3 of the UN Convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC, it is necessary to identify what are the best interests of the child are. This was not done in this case.

My residents and I are asking you to look at the evidence tonight and simply vote for refusal as the law is on our side. The matter needs to be resolved tonight not through Judicial Review which will happen if approved. I think you need to be more concerned about avoiding Judicial Review that whether the Applicant appeals. The applicant did not supply the information about the Curlew on their application, it is their error. Any mitigation plans are too late, ill prepared and fail the tests needed by the Habitats and Wild Bird directives. Support the residents and support the Curlew. Support justice.

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