Today I have received a letter from Vice-Admiral Sir John Dunt KCB, the chairman of the governing body of the Royal Star & Garter Homes. Sir John was informing me that the charity which he heads has decided to pull out of the proposed development of the Jolly Boatman site opposite Hampton Court. They will now look elsewhere for a new, modern home for their disabled ex-Servicemen residents.
This is a controversial development which was opposed by most if not all of the local councillors from Molesey. It came (under the rules then in force) before an extraordinary general meeting of all Elmbridge BC councillors for resolution. I considered the application carefully in light of the advice on planning law provided to us, and decided that, on balance, it merited support.
Separately, I also thought that the proposed building was quite attractive, that the area was currently an eyesore and that there was no realistic prospect of another developer offering to improve the site in the foreseeable future.
The reason why the Star and Garter Homes have decided to withdraw is that an individual has issued an application for judicial review of the Council’s decision to grant planning permission. The matter has now been in the High Court for some time and according to the letter which I have just received, is unlikely to be resolved before October. Given that the original decision was made in December 2008, the charity could not permit further delay and uncertainty given the vulnerability of their residents.
I cannot comment on the merits or otherwise of the judicial review application and I have no reason to doubt the good intentions of the applicant. Nor can I say whether the development can still proceed without the Star & Garter Home. However I do find it hard to believe that the opposition to this scheme has, in the final analysis, made a positive contribution to the sum total of human happiness.