A legal war of words has broken out over a controversial new housing development in Lichfield.
Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust has sought legal advice over Lichfield District Council’s planning report on the proposed Deanslade Park project.
The development, on land between Falkland Road and Birmingham Road, would include 475 new homes, a school, a country park and sporting provision.
But the trust, which is looking to restore the Lichfield Canal, has raised objections to the proposal over concerns it could prevent the route of the waterway being completed if the development goes ahead.
They argue that a new road bridge would need to be created as part of the Deanslade Park works and should be funded by the developer, while also questioning how the route of the canal can be ignored in relation to the council’s own planning and development policies.
A secondary report by the council following an initial challenge from the trust suggested the responsibility for paying for a new bridge should not be through a specific Section 106 payment to fund the work, instead suggesting it should be paid for via the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a contribution to a central pot by developers which can then be spent in defined ways across the district.
But the trust said the money available through this type of payment would be insufficient, leading its barrister to brand the council’s approach “seriously flawed”.
The barrister said: “The additions to the officer’s report in response to the first legal opinion, including an entirely new point in relation to CIL hitherto not mentioned in consideration of the application or drawn to members’ attention, go no way to redressing the failure to provide for infrastructure relating to the canal, nor does it provide any sound reason for failing to do so.
“The officer’s failure to provide any reason for setting aside the requirement to provide for canal infrastructure is a serious flaw in the report.
“The fresh reason given for setting aside the requirements for funding a new bridge and canal cutting, namely that the council’s recently approved plans are inconsistent and confused, to be resolved by ignoring the plan requirement, is a wholly incorrect approach both in its analysis and its conclusions derived from such analysis, and is seriously flawed.”
A bridge too far?
However, legal advice from Lichfield District Council’s own lawyers has countered the claims, suggesting that the road bridge work can only be funded by CIL money.
The local authority’s legal advisors say that if the bridge lies beyond the boundaries of the development it falls within the remit of the CIL and therefore cannot also form part of any Section 106 agreement.
“The provision of a new bridge on Claypit Lane to remove an obstruction to the route of the canal which already exists, which lies outside of the allocation, and would need to be overcome irrespective of whether the development proceeds, cannot be said to be necessary nor directly related to the development and would therefore not satisfy the tests for a valid Section 106 obligation.”
Councillors will make a decision on the development and the two opposing legal arguments at a special meeting of the planning committee on 4th March. Full details on the application, together with the legal advice, is available here.