A ‘crowdfunding’ campaign to boost Hungerford Town Council’s coffers has been launched ahead of a legal battle to stop up to 100 homes being built.
The council could need up to £35,000 in its war chest to cover the potential costs of a judicial review challenging West Berkshire Council’s housing allocation Development Plan Document (DPD).
The legal challenge is the ‘nuclear option’ in the ongoing fight to stop the homes being built on land off Salisbury Road.
At an extraordinary meeting of the full town council on June 19, members voted unanimously to begin the judicial review process in the High Court.
This will challenge the legality of the DPD on the grounds that exceptional circumstances for building in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) had not been made out as required.
In addition, the application started with a five-hectare plot which has subsequently grown to more than seven hectares, allegedly without proper scrutiny.
The decision to take legal action has prompted several letters to the Newbury Weekly News from opponents of that outcome (see this week’s letters pages).
By contrast, the online ‘crowdfunding’ page carries defiant messages of support alongside individual donations ranging from tens of pounds to several hundreds of pounds.
An accompanying statement from the town council states: “The process involves a statement of facts and grounds being submitted, which has now been done.
“Within four to six weeks a judge will decide if the case is worth proceeding to court. Our barrister believes we have a good case.
“The cost to this stage is £13,500, but this could increase to around £35,000 if it goes to court.
“We need your help to raise these funds.
“If we are successful we should get most of our costs back and funders will be reimbursed accordingly.”
The statement adds: “We are not against housing, but the choice of ‘Land south of the Salisbury Road’ as a development site will cause the most harm on the AONB and the greatest traffic impact on our High Street.
“It sets a dangerous precedent for future planning applications for other locations in the AONB. Conservation of the AONB is paramount.
“Following consultation with residents of Hungerford, you have told us that you are against this development and we are listening and acting on behalf of the town.
“The desirable outcome would be for West Berkshire Council to review their strategy and consider alternative sites that don’t damage the AONB.
“Such sites have been put forward by the town council following expert advice from an independent planning consultant.”
Contributions to the fund can be made here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/salisburyroad