Planning decision re RAF Croughton

Earlier this year, we received a routine planning application from the operators of RAF Croughton to make various minor changes on the base, such as replacing and resiting the current radar domes.

Published: Thursday, 19th November 2020

A minor and routine set of changes such as this would normally be considered by Council officers under delegated powers. Such planning decisions have to be taken on strictly planning grounds only, which are well established through law and various precedents, and cannot be influenced by non-planning considerations. Although we had not completed the process of considering this application, we had reached the stage where we were minded to approve the application.

At that stage however, the local MP, the Rt Hon Mrs Andrea Leadsom MP, requested the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to consider ‘calling in’ the application, to decide himself whether to approve it or reject it. We were of course content to wait for the Secretary of State to consider the matter, as is his right in law, so effectively we put consideration of the planning application ‘on hold’.

At the time we expressed our condolences afresh to the family and friends of Harry Dunn, who tragically died outside the base in a road traffic collision, and we again today offer the family our most sincere sympathy. Harry’s tragic death provided the background to the controversy behind this particular planning application, which on its merits would otherwise have been quite routine and likely uncontroversial.

We can share that we have now received a letter to confirm that the Secretary of State does not wish to call in the planning application for replacement radomes at RAF Croughton. It now falls to the Council to determine the planning application as the Secretary of State will not do so himself. We are strictly limited to the grounds we can take into account, and despite our huge sympathy and respect for the family’s campaign, the circumstances of Harry’s tragic death are not matters that we are allowed to take into account. Indeed, if we were to do so and reject the otherwise routine planning application on those grounds, there is the likelihood that the applicant would simply appeal and most likely easily win their appeal. Any such lost appeal would likely only cause a minor and inconsequential delay, but have the negative effect of costing South Northants Council – and ultimately therefore our local taxpayers – a substantial sum in legal fees but without actually making any real difference.

As such, South Northants Council has considered and today approved the planning application in question, in the normal way, and on the planning grounds the law allows us to take into account.

Councillor Phil Bignell, Deputy Leader of South Northants Council and Cabinet Member for Planning added:

“Harry’s death was an absolute tragedy, and it was right and proper that Andrea Leadsom, as the local MP, supported his family in seeking to use this planning matter as a bargaining chip in negotiations to try to ensure justice for Harry. Now that this particular attempt has not succeeded, we wish Harry’s family and friends well in their continuing campaign for justice, and have simply handled the planning application in the usual way as the law requires.”