Peel pursues legal battle over Carrington consent
Peel is continuing to call for a judicial review into the approval of rival developer Himor’s mixed-use Future Carrington scheme in Trafford, despite its request being rejected by a High Court judge.
Peel is due to hear in the coming weeks from the Court of Appeal as to whether its claim, dismissed in October, will be reconsidered.
Himor’s plans for the redevelopment of the 1,655-acre former Shell refinery in Carrington were approved by Trafford Council in April this year. The proposal was for 450,000 sq ft of commercial development at Common Lane, granted outline consent, and the construction of 740 homes and a further 470,000 sq ft of commercial, granted detailed consent.
Peel’s request for a judicial review relates to the Common Lane site, but it has also lodged a request for a judicial review into the detailed consent, which is being held in abeyance.
The point of contention is the Western Gateway Infrastructure Scheme, a £32m package of road building and improvements currently under construction. A condition of Peel being granted consent for its 50-acre mixed-use Trafford Waters, and the 250-acre Port Salford, a mega-logistics scheme, was that Peel make a contribution to funding Western Gateway, along with Salford City Council and the Government.
Peel believes that Himor should also be asked to contribute to road improvements in the area, as vehicles accessing Carrington will benefit from Western Gateway, and that the development should be subject to the same phasing plan put on it for Trafford Waters. Peel lodged a detailed objection with Trafford Council in March and, following the decision to grant Himor planning permission, has pursued legal action since.
A report prepared by Trafford Council for its March planning meeting noted that “Peel has made a late criticism of the council’s approach to the assessment of highways and infrastructure matters”. The view of officers was clear, however: “That there is no merit to the concerns raised [by Peel] and there is no need to take the analysis any further”.
The report stated: “Peel’s assumption that these [Carrington] proposals should be subject to the same requirements as Trafford Waters ignore the basic fact that the implications of the Carrington development on the road network are entirely different from Trafford Waters because of their respective locations and traffic dispersal from the sites.”
At the start of October, Peel’s application for a judicial review into Trafford Council’s decision was dismissed by High Court Judge Justice Gilbart as on 6 October, as “totally without merit,” awarding £15,000 of costs against Peel.
The parties involved were Peel Investments (North) vs Trafford Council. Himor was listed as the first interested party, and Highways England the second interested party.
Peel was told by Judge Gilbart that it may not request that the decision to refuse permission be reconsidered at a hearing. Peel must now justify to the Court of Appeal that Gilbart made an error, and that it is in the public interest to send the matter back to the High Court.
Peel’s case to the High Court was on four grounds: that traffic modelling was used incorrectly; that Trafford made its decision based on an assumption that the Western Gateway would go ahead at full capacity; that the Vissim model – Highways England’s own traffic simulation software package – should have been used across all aspects when assessing the scheme; and that vehicles accessing Carrington would impact Junction 10.
Each of these arguments was dismissed. The court said there was no policy requirement for traffic modelling and the type used was judged appropriate. Peel’s argument that data used was “irrational” was dismissed, the court ruling that the topic was addressed in depth. The likely impact of the Carrington project on Junction 10 was described as “discernible” but not “unacceptable” or “significant”.
The judge noted that if the claimant had issues with methodology used and the consistency of approach, it should have asked the Secretary of State to call the scheme in, rather than pursue a judicial review, which can look only at technical or legal issues and not the merits of a case.
Peel is now waiting to hear from the Court of Appeal whether it will be granted leave to appeal Gilbart’s decision. This does not mean the case will immediately be sent back to High Court – it must first be heard in the Court of Appeal.
One of Peel’s arguments against Trafford was that its decision to approve Carrington was based on an “assumption” that Western Gateway would be completed in full, in time to support increased vehicles on the road accessing Carrington. In its objection to the March planning committee, Peel pointed out that completion of the infrastructure scheme couldn’t be guaranteed, partly because it was reliant on private sector funding. This private sector funding comes from Peel itself.
Western Gateway involves an expansion of the A57, linking the road to the Trafford Centre by the construction of 2.6km of dual carriageway over the Manchester Ship Canal and the construction of a new lifting bridge. It also involves increasing capacity of the existing roundabout junctions on the M60 at junctions 10 and 11, along with the reconfiguration of the Bridgewater Circle roundabout at the Trafford Centre.
Peel’s Trafford Waters consent is for 3,000 homes and 900,000 sq ft of commercial space, and a requirement of the permission is that Western Gateway must be complete before all phases are built out.
Salford secured £15m Regional Growth Fund support for the project in 2011, is contributing £4m itself and provided an £11m loan to Peel Investments.
Despite suffering issues on site – a bridge deck platform collapsed in May 2016 – contractors Hochtief and Buckingham are due to reach completion soon on the first part of the scheme. However, Peel, Salford City Council and Trafford Council are currently locked in legal negotiations over who will pay for the operation and maintenance of the bridge, so an opening date is yet to be confirmed.
Trafford Council said: “Peel’s application for leave to bring an action for judicial review of the Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the Common Lane, Carrington scheme was refused by the court and determined to be totally without merit. A full award of costs was granted to the Council and Himor. Peel are now seeking leave to appeal the judge’s decision in the Court of Appeal.”
Himor said: “Himor is delighted that Judge Gilbart found Peel’s claim to be ‘totally without merit’, and made a full award of costs to both us and the Council.
“The regeneration of Carrington is a long-held aspiration we share with Trafford Council, its elected members, MPs and the local community. Himor is determined that the much needed new homes and job creation in Carrington won’t be delayed.”