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Judge quashes planning permission for relocation of secondary school

A High Court judge has quashed a North West council’s grant of planning permission for a site to which a secondary school was to be relocated.

The case of Lucas (Save Diggle Action Group)), R (On the Application Of) v Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council [2017] EWHC 349 concerned where Saddleworth Secondary School should be located.

Oldham Council wanted to dispose of the existing site at Uppermill and move the school to a new building to be constructed in Diggle.

In its capacity as local planning authority Oldham granted three applications for planning permission and one for listed building consent.

The claimant, a retired TV producer and chairman of the Save Diggle Action Group, brought a claim for judicial review on nine grounds, including complaints about the adequacy of the consultation process.

Mr Justice Kerr rejected all bar one of the grounds of challenge.

He concluded that “the plainly relevant question that was never addressed by members was whether it was worth incurring the additional financial, educational and construction burdens of keeping the Uppermill site, to avoid the substantial harm to the setting of the heritage asset [a listed building in Diggle]. They were wrongly told….. not [to] ask themselves that question”.

The council had earlier said that it had already lawfully ruled out the option of the school staying at Uppermill on non-planning grounds, in its capacity as education authority for the area, and that it was lawful, when acting as local planning authority, to treat that prior non-planning decision as a fait accompli.