Thames Farm Action Group (TFAG), Shiplake Parish Council, Henley Town Council & Harpsden Parish Council have this week sent a pre-action protocol letter to Head of Legal Services at South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) for a judicial review of three decisions that SODC took on 13 October to approve the discharge of conditions on the planned development at the former Wyevale Garden Centre site on the Reading Road.
The discharge of conditions are approval of a drinking water source protection strategy, details of sustainable surface drainage measures and a piling matter statement.
The site is located within a Groundwater Source Protection Zone with designation SPZ1 (the highest level of risk to the water source from contamination).
The letter asks for the decisions to be quashed and remitted back to SODC for redetermination. As well as asking the developer, Beechcroft Developments to submit a dedicated drinking water source protection strategy, a risk assessment on piling to be used and a review of the piling materials to be used. They also request that the Council delays any redetermination of the applications to discharge the conditions until receipt of the outcome of the EA’s internal investigation process.
TFAG and the Councils challenge that the EA should be an interested party. EA is designated to manage activities in order to reduce the risk of contamination and disturbance to aquifers but were not consulted on the original Wyevale outline planning application as they are not a statutory consultee nor on any discharge of conditions.
In the original Reserved Matters proposals there was no indication that piling was to be undertaken. TFAG believe that the introduction of piling represents a material change in the risk profile of the activities and as such should trigger a comprehensive review and re-assessment against the statutory guidance.
The grounds of the challenge are that there has been a Breach of 2014 Regulations – SODC acted unlawfully by failing to produce written records containing reasons for the Decisions. There is nowhere apparent that SODC properly or otherwise considered the important concerns raised by JBA Consulting’s report commissioned by Thames Farm Action Group. They believe that there are also deficiencies with the material provided by Beechcroft Developments and in their Hydrogeological and Piling Risk Assessment document it makes plain that it was only addressing Condition 4 and Condition 13 and not Condition 3 (drinking water source protection strategy).
They have requested a reply to the letter by 21 November.