The controversial Equestrian Centre that is proposed for the area between Woodlands Farm and Thompsons Garden Centre on Shooters Hill Road has passed two potential barriers to its implementation. Both the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State have decided not to intervene in Greenwich Council’s decision to grant approval for the Centre.
The Mayor’s letter stated:
Having now considered a report on this case (reference PDU/2760/GK02 copy enclosed), I am content to allow Greenwich Council to determine the case itself, subject to any action that the Secretary of State may take, and therefore do not wish to direct refusal.
However I request that Natural England are fully consulted in relation to the discharge of condition 22 regarding the ecological mitigation and management plan.
And that from the Secretary of State’s representative:
The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy, as set out in the 1999 Caborn Statement. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
The Secretary of State has carefully considered the impact of the proposal and the key policy issues, which this case raises. In his opinion, the proposals do not: involve a conflict with national policies on important matters; have significant effects beyond their immediate locality; give rise to substantial regional or national controversy; raise significant architectural and urban design issues; or involve the interests of national security or of Foreign Governments. Nor does he consider that there is any other sufficient reason to call the application in for his own determination.
The decision as to whether to grant planning permission will therefore remain with Greenwhich Council.
The decision does include 31 conditions, including a stipulation that there should be a minimum of 82 horse-riding hours a week access to the facilities by the local community, a prior programme of archaeological work and production of an Ecological Mitigation and Management Plan.
The report accompanying the decision reveals that 12 sites were considered as possible locations for the centre, most of them local sports grounds and playing fields, and the brief reasons why they were discounted.
It also states that the Council are seeking agreement for the Blackheath donkeys to move to a site in Woodbrook Road.
Perhaps most importantly the report mentions the “very special circumstances” that are necessary to justify development on Metropolitan Open Land. Mentions but doesn’t detail… in the words of the Mayor’s report:
The ‘very special circumstances’ put forward to justify the harm to MOL regarding Olympic legacy, increasing participation in sport, education, community benefit, lack of alternative sites and the financial justification from connection activity on the site are now, on balance, acceptable, and the application complies with London Plan policy.
So that seems to be that. Greenwich Council is allowed to decide on the planning application that they themselves have put forward.