Pyestock mega depot approval upheld by judge
June 01, 2010
CAMPAIGNERS have lost their fight to stop a massive warehouse being built in north-east Hampshire.
A High Court judge finally gave the Pyestock mega depot between Fleet and Farnborough the green light following a two-day hearing last week.
It ends years of campaigning by SPLAT (Stop Pyestock bLot Act Today), which warned the mega shed proposal would cause even more traffic chaos across the area.
Bitterly disappointed SPLAT leader Bob Schofield said: "This represents the end of a four-year fight to keep the lorries at bay.
"What should not be forgotten is that it is the inadequacy of our local road infrastructure that has forced a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week development, supposedly to avoid further congestion on our inadequate roads.
"We have to suffer twice for under-investment in local infrastructure.
"Fleet is threatened with further major developments, the QEB housing estate and possibly more houses as a consequence of the South East Plan.
"As local residents we must ensure that although we have lost this battle, we must not lose the war in maintaining some residual quality of life."
An independent planning inspector had recommended the 1.3 million sq-ft warehouse, equivalent to more than 20 football pitches worth of concrete floorspace, should be rejected because it would adversely affect the strategic gap.
But a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government over-ruled the decision.
Barrister Paul Stinchcombe represented SPLAT in its High Court challenge.
He argued the warehouse proposal breached conditions within Hart District Council’s Local Plan development blueprint.
"Regrettably the judge found in favour of the Secretary of State, quoting numerous precedent cases that gave the secretary a wide discretion," said Mr Schofield.
He added that having lost the case, SPLAT would have to bear the costs of the Secretary of State’s defence.
Joint developer Prudential and Astral Developments also attempted to recover its costs from the group.
But Mr Schofield said: "The judge declared that there had been no need for Prudential to be represented and they, in large, duplicated the Secretary of State’s case and therefore refused costs, so there is some justice."
Mr Schofield thanked SPLAT’s legal team of Mr Stinchcombe and Louise Humphreys, solicitor at Fleet firm Peyto Law, who had "professionally and compassionately" advised and served its cause.
"We also wish to thank everyone who has supported us in whatever way through this long campaign," he added.
"With your help and support we did win the public inquiry and we did inject some additional conditions into the planning approval, but the juggernaut of the late government rolled over us.
"We can only hope this new government lives up to its promise of giving more power back to the community."
Martin Towns, director of investment management for PRUPIM, said: "We are delighted that the High Court has upheld the decision of the Secretary of State.
"We now look forward to getting on with delivering the project, providing new distribution space for some of the UK’s leading companies and creating up to 1,600 new jobs.
"As we move forward, the wider community will begin to see the benefits of the scheme which will bring substantial investment, employment and training opportunities to the area.
"We will be looking for occupiers to take the available space and will be discussing their specific requirements with them."