Heritage Quarter opponents say council is "abusive and aggressive"
PUBLISHED: 09:59 04 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:59 04 March 2015
Campaign group says council's behaviour "should worry everyone in Gravesham"
Campaigners against the Gravesham Heritage Quarter have called the borough council “abusive and aggressive” after it criticised them for bringing a court case opposing the Gravesend Heritage Quarter.
A statement from the volunteer campaign group Urban Gravesham said the council’s behaviour “should worry everyone in Gravesham”.
A High Court challenge to the council’s decision to approve the development was rejected by Mr Justice Ouseley on Monday, who said that the council had acted lawfully in giving it approval.
The council subsequently criticised the group for wasting taxpayers’ money on a court case. But this morning the group have said they had every right to challenge what they believed to be a deeply wrong decision by the local authority.
The group said in a statement: “What is very unusual is the vehemence of the council’s response.
“The might of the council’s PR department is being brought to bear, to attack local people for doing what is their right in a democratic society - opposing commercial development by private developers in their town centre.
“Our concern was that major controversial development which had been approved by the very narrowest of margins had turned out to be something far less than had been promised when planning permission was granted.
“With the judgement of March 1, that concern remains unanswered. It is far from clear for what reasons the 44 members of the council all failed to ask for the application to be recalled to the committee. Given the level of public concern about it they plainly should have done.”
And they say that, far from wasting taxpayers’ money, they were right to bring the challenge.
“We sought permission from the court for the legal challenge and it was granted because we had a strong case,” the statement added.
“It took four months for a very senior planning specialist judge to reach a decision.
“He was plainly troubled by the council’s behaviour and the suggestion that he ‘shredded’ our legal case is nonsense.
“The reason we were driven to the extreme measure of taking the matter to court was because we were unable to get any part of the council’s apparatus to respond to our concern. That failure to respond is referred to several times in the judgment and it plainly puzzled Mr Justice Ouseley too.”
The group said it was the council’s behaviour that should worry people, not theirs.
“The behaviour of the council is a failure of the democratic process in Gravesham which their abusive and aggressive behaviour towards dissenters in the community cannot mask,” the statement added.
“The council has incurred huge and irrecoverable cost to prevent the matter being reconsidered by the planning committee.
“That every one of the elected members chose to stand by the private developer rather than the community should worry everyone in Gravesham, whether they support the Heritage Quarter scheme or not.”