Newquay Town Council has decided against calling for a judicial review to overturn controversial planning permission to redevelop the Narrowcliff.

The authority has confirmed it is not progressing with court proceedings to review the lawfulness of Cornwall Council’s decision-making process to approve, through delegated powers, a scheme to demolish The Hotel Bristol, Narrowcliff Hotel and Narrowcliff Surgery and build 143 new dwellings after legal advice confirmed the chances of a successful review “in this case are very low.”

Residents and town councillors wanted to see Cornwall Council’s central sub-area planning committee making the decision on the plans rather than it being decided “behind closed doors” as it would have given the public an opportunity to have their say. 

Newquay Central Cornwall councillor Louis Gardner decided against ‘calling in’ the planning application despite more than 700 people opposing the plans due to fears the scheme would ‘dwarf’ the surrounding area.

He argued the development meets all the planning criteria including the designated height for the Narrowcliff as the building would be four storeys plus one.

Cllr Gardner also stated the development would offer the required affordable housing but “most importantly,” would facilitate and also help to pay for the brand-new doctor’s surgery.

The town council decided against pursuing a Judicial Review as it “cannot spend public funds on a legal challenge that is unlikely to win.”

Town clerk Andrew Curtis, who is the chief executive of Newquay Town Council, said: “We have been exploring the possibility of a Judicial Review against Cornwall Council for its approval of the major planning application through delegated powers, rather than via the clearer process of Cornwall Council planning committee determination. 

“To help with this decision, the town council obtained legal advice from two different sources, Tozers LLP, our primary legal advisors as well as a second opinion from an independent barrister. 

“After examining their advice carefully, I can confirm that the chances of a successful Judicial Review in this case are very low and therefore has not been progressed. 

“The deadline for sending a Pre-Action Protocol Letter, start of the process for seeking a Judicial Review, was Friday, March 29. 

“However, based on the strong advice of both legal advisors, no such letter was commissioned or approved. 

“Cornwall Council's scheme of delegation allows most applications to be decided by delegated powers by planning officers. 

“For an application to be referred to the planning committee, it must be a "significant departure" from approved planning policies.

“Whether a departure is "significant" is a matter of planning judgment. 

“The relevant Neighbourhood Plan policies on design and building heights do encourage adherence to the Newquay Character Study, but do not make it obligatory. 

“There is some leeway in the wording. 

“As such, the council's judgment that the departures in this case were not "significant" enough to need committee determination is unlikely to be seen as irrational or unlawful by the courts. 

“Even if there was a significant departure from policies, the Scheme of Delegation still allows the application to be decided by delegated powers. 

“The planning officer's decision involved balancing the benefits and harms of the proposal. 

“The courts are very hesitant to intervene in this type of planning judgment. 

“A Judicial Review challenge would have to be based on the council misapplying policies or otherwise acting unlawfully in granting permission. 

“The legal advice indicates low chances of proving this. 

“Simply arguing it should have gone to committee rather than being delegated is not a strong basis of challenge. 

“In conclusion, while the town council strongly objects to how this application was processed and decided, the very high standard for a Judicial Review challenge is unlikely to be reached in this case based on the professional legal advice received. 

“The town council must therefore very reluctantly accept the decision. 

“The town council has shown it will continue to rigorously review planning applications, argue for compliance with our democratically adopted Neighbourhood Plan, and push for transparency in decision-making. 

“However, in this case, we must act wisely and cannot spend public funds on a legal challenge that is unlikely to win.”

Campaigners had also hoped Michael Gove, the Secretary of State Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, could overturn the planning permission but that is reportedly not possible.

Town councillor Nick Morris had received confirmation in a letter on behalf of the Secretary of State that stated the Narrowcliff planning approval was “under consideration.”

But the office of Mr Gove now says that was an error to state that as it cannot 'call in' the application because planning permission has already been granted. 

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