A CAMPAIGNER using much of her own money to fight plans to build 550 homes on greenbelt land in Rayleigh has slammed a council for presenting late evidence at a High Court hearing.
Linda Kendall, 66, chairman of the Rayleigh Action Group, has pledged about £40,000 to fight Rochford District Council in the High Court over plans to build the homes.
The homes are part of 2,785 planned on green belt by the local authority across the Rochford district for the next 11 years.
Ms Kendall and her legal team, Cambridge-based solicitors Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law, claim not enough consultation was carried out by the council before the plans were approved.
The case, being heard by Mr Justice Lindblom, began on Tuesday, June 17, and was set to last just two days, but stretched to a third before the council’s barrister presented new files of evidence before the judge.
The case has now been adjourned until late July. Ms Kendall said: “It has taken its toll and I am quite distressed about what the council are doing. It had already gone a day over and their barrister turned up at 2pm with two box files of documents that were unlabelled, with no notes and asked the judge to submit them.
“The judge was very unimpressed and we said they cannot allow it to go forward until we have had a chance to look at them.
“They have had since April 8 and they have waited until the final hour of submissions.
“All of this extra time is costing their residents money and me too, no doubt.”
Ms Kendall’s legal costs are expected to be approaching £45,000 but she has so far received more than £6,000 in donations to the Rayleigh Action Group.
She has been supported in court by Brian Carleton, chairman of the Hullbridge Residents Action Group – and also a former chartered surveyor who has submitted evidence to her cause – and other Hullbridge residents.
However, a statement from Rochford District Council suggested they were not to blame for the trial's delay.
A spokesman for the council said: "The claimant expanded their pleadings beyond that stated in their original claim as well as incurring a day and a half of the allocated court time - out of the 2 days originally set - in presenting their case.
"The Council was obliged to respond to this in full and made an application for further evidence to be submitted.
"The Judge granted the Council’s application taking into account the overriding objective in dealing with the case in a just and fair manner; and in his view would be evidence that is material to the case and ought to come before the court for consideration.
"Both parties will now have to adhere to the case management directions and the matter is expected to be heard in July, subject to the Court arranging the date."
Action group hoping to celebrate victory
Hullbridge campaigners could be celebrating a minor victory as plans to build 500 homes on the village look set to be reduced.
Land agent for the site, Landhold Capital, held a public exhibition of plans for the homes recently and also consulted with stakeholders such as the parish and district council, as well as the Hullbridge Residents Action Group.
Brian Carleton, the group’s chairman, attended the meeting and discovered that thanks to a new flood assessment, the number of homes could be reduced by as many as 150.
Mr Carleton said: “The meeting was very interesting.
“They admitted the area concerned was in risk of flooding, as it did last August, and there could be as few as 350 new homes now.
“The problem is that it may be good for Hullbridge, but those homes will still have to go somewhere else.”
A spokesman for Landhold Capital thanked the 300 residents for attending the exhibition and said the meetings were useful.
He said: “The meetings were productive and we want to consult with residents at the appropriate times.
“The whole point of the meetings was to understand the local issues. We are very grateful for the information they have given to us.”
However, a statement from the council said the site, along with policies to ensure development is carefully managed and accompanied by necessary infrastructure, was identified in their allocations plan.
The council say it can accommodate 250 homes by 2021 and a further 250 by 2025, along with new community facilities, public open space, place and sustainable drainage systems.
A spokesman for the council said: “The Government Inspector conducted an examination into the soundness of the allocations plan, including the South West Hullbridge site, and concluded the site was sound.
“As such, the council has no intention of redirecting any of the district’s housing allocation to other areas of the district that have not been identified for development through the plans that the council has in place.
“It is important that the council has adopted plans in place to manage development and ensure there is not an unplanned ‘free-for-all’ across the district.”