Group wins new High Court hearing over Woolley valley
A campaign group wanting to protect meadowland near Bath has won the go-ahead to bring High Court proceedings against council chiefs.
The Save Woolley Valley Action Group (SWVAG) has been given the right to have a full High Court hearing in its challenge of Bath and North East Somerset Council's handling of development at Woolley.
Villagers say the agricultural firm Golden Valley Paddocks is creating an eyesore on land being used for poultry farming, which was formerly owned by broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby.
SWVAG is challenging two decisions made by the council that allow Golden Valley to keep ten 11ft-high chicken sheds, enough to house 10,000 chickens, and a stock pond on the site.
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Mr Justice Ouseley has now ruled that SWVAG had an "arguable" case and granted permission for a full High Court hearing of its challenge, at a date to be fixed.
The group hopes to win an order quashing the council's decision that the ten prefabricated chicken sheds did not require planning permission, as well as its decision to give permission for the stock pond.
Kieran Higgins, of SWVAG, said they were delighted that the court had decided B&NES had a case to answer.
He said: "All our hard work has not been in vain. We believe B&NES has misunderstood the scope of their powers and duties under the law including European law.
"SWVAG intends to push this to a conclusion."
He added: "It is hoped that the council may reconsider its position without spending further taxpayer money on fighting SWVAG.
"After all SWVAG is simply trying to help B&NES do the job it says it wants to do."
SWVAG claims that, in reaching its decisions, the council failed in its duties under the European Environmental Impact Assessment regime, and did not take into account the cumulative impact on the surrounding environment.
The council did not want to comment on the court proceedings and a spokesman said it would issue a statement once there was an outcome from the action, which is expected to come to a head in the next four months.
An earlier hearing was told that, although Golden Valley has yet to bring any chickens on to the land, it had 2,150 ducks in five of the sheds.
The erection of the chicken sheds, a mobile home and drainage work at the firm's Woolley Farm started to concern residents last year because the area is subject to special rules, which mean permission is needed for many developments that are not normally covered by the planning system.
The group's campaign has been backed by many residents as well as musician Peter Gabriel, pictured, who lived in the hamlet at the time of writing the 1977 hit Solsbury Hill.
But Golden Valley insists the work it has carried out on the land does not require planning permission.
Agent Marc Willis said: "We are waiting to hear the order of the court and we're taking further legal advice. We will see what happens."
He added: "Our position hasn't changed and clearly the council's position hasn't changed either."