Development in jeopardy?

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A HEMSWORTH councillor who has been fighting to save a sports complex for more than four years has been granted a judicial review into a planning application on the site.

Coun Jim Kenyon started fighting to save the Hemsworth Sports Complex, Kirkby Road, when Hemsworth Town Council announced plans to sell it to fund a new community centre and replacement football facilities in April 2007.

Mr Kenyon, who now sits on the council, was unsuccessful in stopping the sale go through, but has now won the right to have a judicial review to look at why an environmental impact assessment - a screening opinion - was not carried out before Wakefield Council granted planning permission.

Saul Construction was given approval by the district council to build 147 houses and 10 retirement apartments on the former complex land.

A High Court judge initially threw out the application against Wakefield Council, in which Mr Kenyon alleged that the replacement football facilities, on Sandygate Lane, were not up to scratch and did not comply with a section 106 agreement.

But after an oral hearing on November 15, Mr Justice King gave Mr Kenyon permission to include grounds that the screening opinion should have been carried out and granted permission for a judicial review to go ahead on this basis.

However, Mr Kenyon was ordered to pay Wakefield Council’s costs as he failed on most of the grounds of his application.

The council can now either contest the judicial review proceedings or quash the planning application. It is currently taking legal advice to consider its next step and to try and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

The planning application is still currently valid, meaning work can continue at the developer’s own risk. If the council does quash it in the future, the outline and reserved planning matters would be redecided or a fresh application could be made.

The new Hemsworth Town Council Community Centre, Bullenshaw Road, and the Sandygate Football Facility are not currently affected by the sale as they were built under separate planning applications.

It is unclear how things could progress if Saul Construction is not allowed to build on the land, as the new facilities were built by the company in return for the complex land for residential development.

Mr Kenyon said he would not object to a renewed application if a fullsize pitch, junior pitch, clubhouse and changing rooms were built on the former complex site, alongside the residential development.

He said: “I am delighted that I have got the go-ahead for a judicial review. I feel all the hard work has been justified. I have been vindicated.

“Permission for the review was granted because of the failure of Wakefield Council to provide a screening opinion. This would have established the effects of such a development on the environment and looked at the impact and sustainability on the community because of the loss of a public recreational facility. Wakefield Council should now quash the planning permission.”

Wakefield Council said a screening opinion was not carried out as it was not routine on developments of this type when permission was granted in 2008.

Coun Tony Upson, chairman of Hemsworth Town Council, said: “The Order of the High Court has actually supported Hemsworth Town Council in relation to all grounds raised by the claimant relating to valuation and the quality and quantity of facilities provided to this township – all these grounds were rejected by the judge once again.

“As the only issue referred for a judicial review hearing is a procedural planning matter relating to the decision to grant planning permission by Wakefield Council for residential development, this is a matter principally for Wakefield Council and the developer, and so it would be inappropriate to comment further until this is resolved.

“Hemsworth Town Council is satisfied that the new sports facilities and community centre that have already been provided in the township pursuant to different planning permissions to that challenged in the court are not prejudiced by the court order.”

Andy Wallhead, corporate director of regeneration and economic growth, said: “We are disappointed with this particular decision, especially as the court ruled in our favour in every other aspect, and because the need for an environmental impact (screening) assessment on schemes of this nature has only become clear since 2008.

“We will now decide on whether or not to challenge the decision, or to accept it and reconsider the application. Whatever decision we take, we want to get this issue resolved as soon as possible.”