Appeal to Save Croyde AONB - Frequently Asked Questions
This is CARA’s understanding of the situation and is not legal advice.
1. CARA won the case in the High Court in March 2021 and the unlawful 2014 planning permission was quashed – why is the legal action continuing?
Parkdean have been given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. It is now for the Court of Appeal to decide if the High Court was right to quash the harmful 2014 planning permission.
The exceptional facts of this case have not changed. For example, the 2014 planning permission is unlawful. This was not disputed by any parties to the case including Parkdean. The High Court also found that the planning permission was unlawful and would not have been granted if the true extent of the application and the illegality of the permission had been appreciated.
Parkdean want the Court of Appeal to look at the legal arguments placed before the High Court on delay and statutory bar, in particular, and obtain a ruling on whether the High Court’s decision was correct in law.
2. How does the referral of this case to the Court of Appeal affect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Environment?
It will all depend on what the Court of Appeal decides. Until the Court of Appeal makes their decision the High Court ruling remains in place and the unlawful 2014 planning permission remains quashed.
If the Court of Appeal upholds the High Court decision then the 2014 planning permission remains quashed and the AONB and the natural environment is safe from the harm that the 2014 planning permission inadvertently sanctioned.
However if the Court of Appeal decides the High Court was wrong in law to quash the 2014 planning permission and that planning permission is reinstated there will be harm to the AONB and the natural environment when development that the 2014 planning permission allows is carried out.
If we are to have the best chance of stopping the harm the 2014 planning decision threatens to the AONB and the natural environment, we need expert legal advice and representation and that costs money.
3. Why would the Court of Appeal reinstate a planning permission that everyone considers unlawful, contrary to a host of local and national planning policies?
It is for the Court of Appeal to reach its own conclusions on the law and its application to the unique facts of this case. We cannot second guess what the Court of Appeal may or may not decide as a matter of law.
What CARA can do is try and ensure that the legal case for the protection of the AONB and the natural environment has expert legal representation before the Court of Appeal. For those of you who are interested in looking at a summary of the different legal issues raised by this court action please see the attached article prepared by Peter Wadsley, the barrister for North Devon District Council here: https://www.stjohnschambers.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Delays-have-dangerous-ends.pdf
4. Why didn’t Parkdean accept the ruling of the High Court?
That is a question that only Parkdean can accurately answer. However the potential gain which may result from the golden windfall of obtaining a planning permission that Parkdean did not apply for and never expected to get because it is unlawful (and which is unrestricted as to the number and type of static caravans/lodge caravans they can have on the land etc) must be an incentive…….
5. CARA has already raised circa £50k for this legal action why does more money need to be raised?
Expert legal advice and litigation liabilities are costly. Only the funds needed to meet costs in connection with High Court action have been raised to date. CARA’s policy is to request the funding it needs to complete a particular action, no more and no less. Now that it has been confirmed that this matter will be considered by the Court of Appeal, we are campaigning to raise the costs needed to respond to Parkdean’s appeal.
The funding target on our Crowd Justice fundraising page has been increased to reflect the current fundraising requirements. The Crowd Justice website shows what funds have been raised since legal proceedings were launched in the High Court in July 2020. It therefore includes the circa £50k that was raised for the High Court action and gives a target for the level of funding that is now needed to cover our estimated costs for the Court of Appeal on top. In practice this means that a new target level of £80k for example, would include the £50k+ already raised for the High Court costs and indicates that a funding level of £80k is needed to fund the overall costs of legal proceedings to date. This includes both the costs of the High Court action and costs to fund the Court of Appeal action.
6. Doesn’t the other side pay the winners costs?
Costs in litigation of this type can be quite complicated. This is an environmental action and falls within something called the Aarhus Convention. As we won at the High Court, under the Aarhus Convention the other side contributed a set limit of £35k towards our costs at the High Court. Our actual costs were over £50k so the £35k contribution did not cover a significant chunk of our costs.
We cannot use that £35k towards funding the Court of Appeal action as if we lose at the Court of Appeal, we must return the £35k contribution back to the other side. In addition, we would also have to contribute towards the other sides’ costs in connection with both the High Court action and the Court of Appeal. As this is an environmental case our contribution towards the other sides costs is limited to £10k for the High Court part of this action. In addition, it is usual to agree a limit on the contribution to the other sides’ costs in the event of wining/losing the Court of Appeal part of the action. That contribution has yet to be agreed.
7. Why do the mistakes in the 2014 planning decision matter?
A major mistake in wording of the 2014 planning permission was the inclusion of the Plan of the Ruda Holiday Park provided by Parkdean with that planning application.
Here is a representation of the Plan that Parkdean submitted marked out on an aerial shot of the landscape:
This mistake and some clumsy wording in the planning decision enabled Parkdean to establish a legal right to put static/lodge caravans on land within the red line of that plan. That plan was labelled "Parkdean RUDA Holiday Park" but as you can see it contained undeveloped land which Parkdean owns and land which it does not. Their legal right to put an unspecified number of static caravans inside the red line of their plan was established by the granting of a Certificate of Lawful Development for the field next to Lundy House (The blue arrow points to this field). The precedent has been set and they can apply for more of these in relation to other undeveloped land they own inside the red line if the 2014 planning permission is reinstated by the Court of Appeal.
8. If a mistake was made in the planning decision, why doesn’t the Local Planning Authority just change it themselves?
The Local Planning Authority can’t "just" change it. Parkdean are an interested party. Whilst the Local Authority does have power to revoke or modify planning permission, the power requires the payment of compensation to the interested party. This compensation is based on the difference in value between the land with the benefit of the planning permission concerned and the land without it, which would be a significant sum.
9. Why are solicitors and barristers involved – it is such a lot of money?
This is a legal matter. Accordingly, the solutions are legal ones with all the legal advice and associated costs this entails. We think that the future of the AONB should not be determined by a planning error and Parkdean. The cost to the AONB and the natural environment is incalculable if action is not taken. There is also the secondary impact on residents and others in the locality, whether people are living nearby, working in the area, or visiting the area. Such expansion of the Parkdean RUDA Holiday Park could adversely impact everyone through crowded roads, traffic jams, overcrowding on pathways, pollution, and water quality of the sea in Croyde Bay and of the Crydda stream that exits onto the beach. This all detracts from the enjoyment of what is meant to be a beautiful rural coastal setting.
10. Not all the land inside the red line is Parkdean’s. The other landowners will never allow caravans to go on their fields and the land Parkdean owns already has caravans all over it – so what’s the problem?
If the unlawful planning permission is reinstated then the land within the red line is at risk of harm – some areas more than others
A significant proportion of land which Parkdean owns inside the red line, does not currently have static caravans/lodges on it. The plan includes completely undeveloped areas such as the green field areas behind and to the right hand side of the glamping huts, the large field next to Lundy House which runs up from Moor Lane towards the northern ridge and the playing field next to the play park behind the dunes. These areas of land are at immediate to high risk of development and extend to somewhere in the region of 5 to 6 hectares in total (50,000 to 60,000 square metres). This is a massive potential increase given the current area of the Holiday Park with accommodation on it. There are in addition other areas owned by Parkdean that are green fields but have tents placed on some and touring caravans and motorhomes on others at certain times of the year. This is usually seasonal touring/camping and has a very different impact on the landscape and environment compared to permanent year-round static caravans. These areas total approximately 4 hectares.
Land not owned by Parkdean
No one knows what land will be owned by who in 5, 10, 30, 40, 70 years or more. If the unlawful planning permission is reinstated by the Court of Appeal, there exists a mechanism to establish a legal right to put static caravans on the land within the red line, so the risk remains. This area is approximately 12 hectares.
11. What is a certificate of lawful development/use (CLD)?
This is not the same thing as planning permission where first of all an application for planning permission has to be made, public consultation undertaken and consideration given to appropriate planning policies etc. A CLD provides proof that a certain established use or development on a piece of land is lawful as at the date stated in the certificate. It prevents enforcement action being taken in relation to the development or change of use stated in the certificate unless there is a material change. Whether there is a material change is a matter of law.
12. Why aren’t you going to the Secretary of State to get the CLD revoked?
The errors giving rise to the situation are in the unlawful 2014 planning permission not the 2020 CLD. See the Planning Inspector’s decision: APP/X1118/X/18/3217206. CARA is following the legal advice it has been given.
13. My livelihood depends on Parkdean does this legal action threaten that?
No. Parkdean’s existing commercial operations on Ruda Holiday Park are not affected by this legal action. At CARA and North Devon District Council’s suggestion Parkdean applied for and obtained planning permission to carry on its existing commercial operations for the extended hours applied for in the 2014 planning permission using an up -to -date map of the Holiday Park and setting out the type of accommodation permitted in each area. See planning permission 72198 which was granted in January 2021.
14. What will happen to Parkdean’s ability to expand its operations if it can no longer rely on the unlawful 2014 planning permission?
Parkdean can use the normal planning application process and make an application to put caravans on its undeveloped areas. However, as with everyone else, their planning application would be subject to the applicable planning policies, checks and balances and the usual consultation and public scrutiny. As Parkdean's RUDA business is a holiday park in an AONB, the law requires that before any decision can be made to expand the holiday park, an environmental impact assessment is to be conducted to establish whether or not the expansion can be justified and if so, what measures must be taken to protect the environment..
15. What’s the point – what are you trying achieve?
We want to stop unrestricted unlawful development in the AONB and the potential for real harm to the beautiful natural environment that the 2014 planning permission presents. The unlawful planning decision permits expansion into green areas of the AONB and affects a Marine Conservation Area, the Saunton to Baggy Site of Special Scientific Interest and the buffer zone of the North Devon Biosphere Reserve.
Planning needs to work and be seen to be working for all: visitors; residents and business owners alike.
This is clearly not the case here where Parkdean are fighting the legal action so that they can use a planning permission:
mistakenly and unlawfully granted,
that Parkdean did not apply for and never expected to get,
as a basis for obtaining a certificate of lawful development/use to expand the holiday park and develop the green fields of the AONB. There is the potential for additional such certificates to be granted on the other areas identified.
This was the position until the Hight Court quashed the 2014 permission and will be again if the 2014 planning permission is reinstated at the Court of Appeal.
If Parkdean wishes to develop its land, it should have to do so through the normal planning procedures.
16. This is just a Croyde issue – why should I be concerned?
It is a North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty issue and is of tremendous concern to those who treasure the beauty of the coast and countryside of this Country. If commercial enterprise is permitted to rely on unlawful and mistakenly granted planning permission to the detriment of nationally protected areas of outstanding natural beauty and affecting a Marine Zone, SSSI and a UNESCO Biosphere, the statutory and other protections afforded to these world renowned and much treasured areas are not worth the paper they are written on and there is something seriously wrong with the rules relating to the development and use of land.
Croyde and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is there for everyone – holiday makers, day trippers, local people, residents and businesses – we will all be affected by this. There are many ways that this will impact those visiting and those living or working here or near here. More static caravans and cars in prominent places in the protected landscape will cause harm to the beautiful landscape. The extra cars on the roads and additional visitor capacity will increase traffic issues and pollution. There will be less of the AONB to experience and see as the green fields and hedges and natural habitats vanish under overwhelming domination of commercial static caravans and concrete bases. The impact of many additional people visiting the area at the same time and the covering of green fields with statics and concrete could increase licenced releases from the sewage plant into Croyde Bay and result in more water run- off into the drainage system that all feeds into the Bay, adversely affecting water quality and beach and seaside activities and marine life including the Marine Conservation Area to name a few.
17. Why is it CARA that is taking this action?
No one else was and we think it is a pressing issue that needs addressing.
18. How long is the campaign period for raising funds? I keep seeing a different number of days to the end of the campaign period on the Crowd Justice website?
The campaign runs as long as we need it to run which is basically until all the legal proceedings are concluded. The target on the website shows how much money we need to raise at any given time and how much of that sum has been raised already.
The way the Crowd Justice platform works is that there is a rolling campaign period of 30 days which continues in a loop until such time as the fundraising is no longer needed and we close the web page. This means that sometimes the web page will show only one day to go and another time, 30 days or 20 days and so on. The important information about the campaign is in the wording of the campaign pages and the updates on the case that let you know the latest position.
19. The Court Case sounds complicated, how far has the case progressed?
The court case originated as a claim in the High Court for Judicial Review of the unlawful 2014 Planning Permission. CARA with the support of hundreds of people, successfully petitioned the High Court to quash it. Parkdean have been granted permission to have this matter considered by Court of Appeal which is the next Court up. Instead of one judge (High Court), the Court of Appeal usually has 3 judges considering the matter and Court’s decision is that of the majority of the Judges
20. What happens if CARA loses the Court Case – won’t CARA be liable for the other side’s legal costs which could be huge?
As this is an environmental case, the liability for the other side’s costs, if we lose, is limited under something called the Aarhus Convention. Our total liability in the High Court action is limited to £10,000. Our liability in relation to the other side’s costs at the Court of Appeal has not yet been determined but as this an environmental case it is usual for a costs limit to be agreed. Allowances for the other side’s costs, in the event the case is lost, are included in our legal funding budget which is reflected in the Crowd Justice website funding target. As CARA is a charity, we cannot commit ourselves to legal action where we don’t have the funds to meet our costs and liabilities. The funding website is to ensure that these legal costs and liabilities are always covered.
21. If CARA wins the Court Case and the other side are ordered to contribute to the CARA’s legal costs what will happen to any surplus funds?
CARA is a charity and any surplus funds left after the court proceedings are concluded will be applied towards charitable purposes in accordance with the charity’s objects and rules. CARA’s charitable objects are based on protecting the AONB and the natural environment of this area.
22.What is CARA?
Croyde Area Residents Association (CARA) is an unincorporated resident’s association made up of residents living in the Croyde Area which is in the Parish of Georgeham in North Devon. It is a charity that was formed in the 1970s with the purpose of protecting and preserving this area as one of outstanding natural beauty for the benefit of all.
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