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Asset of Community Value


R (on the application of East Meon Forge and Cricket Ground Protection Association) v East Hampshire District Council

The High Court recently blocked plans to extend a village forge next to a cricket ground. The presiding judge openly admitted to not knowing the rules of cricket, however after the two day hearing it was held that the circumstances left both occupiers of the forge and those at the cricket club vulnerable and therefore the development should not proceed.


The case of R (on the application of East Meon Forge and Cricket Ground Protection Association) v East Hampshire District Council followed East Hampshire District Council’s decision to grant planning permission approving a residential first floor flat to be built over a single storey former blacksmith’s workshop at the site in East Meon.


The Council’s decision was challenged under the Judicial Review procedure by East Meon Forge and Cricket Ground Protection Association. The Association’s application comprised three separate arguments in an attempt to overturn the grant of planning permission.


Firstly, the Association argued that the Council had not taken into consideration the relevant local policies when granting planning permission. This was quickly dismissed by the High Court, holding that the planning officer’s report when read together with other expert assessments showed clearly that the officer had considered everything necessary in a balanced way with adequate reasoning.


It was relevant that the forge is listed as what is known as an “asset of community value”, because of its special historic resonance and cultural interest within the local community. The Association’s second argument was that the Council had failed to consider the fact that the Association had sufficient funds to continue the industrial use of the forge without the need for a first floor dwelling, something which would uphold the special historic and cultural interest of the building. The Court held that this was an exceptional case in which alternative schemes had been a necessary consideration for the planning committee and this information should have been made available. In regards to the historic and cultural interest of the building, this was a matter for the committee to consider and use their judgment to decide upon, and eventually proved irrelevant to the planning decision.


Also of relevance however was the location of the forge, being at an entrance to the village recreation ground where a local cricket team regularly play. The cricket square is in very close proximity to the forge. The Association submitted that balls are frequently hit by batsmen on to forge land, including the roof of the building itself. Their final argument was therefore that the new dwelling would interfere with the cricket due to the risk of both damage to the property and injury to people using it.


On this final point, the Court agreed that those using the flat and the decking outside would be vulnerable and that the cricket club would be liable for damage to the windows. Evidence had been submitted in the planning stage by Sports England in its capacity as a statutory consultee, and the Court held that representations made by Sport England regarding the risk of flying cricket balls had not been properly regarded by the planning committee. The recommendations were sound and important to the decision making. Consequentially, the proposed development created “unacceptable risks”. The Court was not swayed even by proposals of a range of protective measures, including shutters and a protective net.


The decision to grant planning permission was therefore overturned.


For more information please contact Alastair Frew on 01789 206117 or by email.

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