Couple pay a high price as court judge backs council

General view of Heron's Wharf construction site, Shevington, as campaigner Steven Howard continues to battle with housing developers Morris Homes - he claims the land is contaminated and the tests weren't carried out and is concerned for the health of people living near the area
General view of Heron's Wharf construction site, Shevington, as campaigner Steven Howard continues to battle with housing developers Morris Homes - he claims the land is contaminated and the tests weren't carried out and is concerned for the health of people living near the area

A YEAR after a crushing High Court defeat a Wigan man and woman have paid a high price for challenging the granting by Wigan Council of planning consent for residential development in the town.

Steven Howard and Justine Bennett were hit with a pre-Christmas legal costs bill of £10,000 in respect of their failed challenge almost a year to the day ago. The bill is double what they expected to have to pay. They had earlier obtained a ‘protected costs order’ (PCO) limiting their liability in costs if they lost the case to £5,000.

But at London’s High Court one of the country’s top judges, Mr Justice Supperstone doubled that sum. However, it is still not as much as the council was asking for.

It had sought an order that they should pay £15,723.

Howard and Bennett had challenged the council’s grant to Morris Homes of planning consent for 39 homes on land to the south of 43/44 Herons Wharf, Appley Bridge, Wigan.

When the case was heard last December they had argued that the council had failed to consider possible environmental effects of contaminated land at the site.

They claimed that the council had made a “flawed” screening opinion to the effect that a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not required under EU law.

The council’s Principal Planning Officer, Mr Foster, had noted that the history of the site could potentially give rise to issues surrounding ground contamination, with investigations into potential contamination having been carried out.

But he had concluded that there was no information to suggest that the threat is significant and found that, while there may be some environmental impacts from the development, they were likely to be localised and capable of being adequately mitigated.

When he dismissed the objections last year the same judge who imposed the legal costs order, said that it was clear from the screening opinion, read as a whole, that the officer paid proper regard to the land contamination issues, and that he accepted the submissions advanced on behalf of the council that there would be nothing “overly complex” about the remediation proposals for this small development.

He had told the objectors: “In my view it is clear that specific attention was paid to the potential contamination of the site and Mr Foster came to an overall view in the Screening Opinion that any environmental effects will not be significant and could be successfully mitigated.”