HEREFORD rugby club has won the game of its life.
This morning, the Court of Appeal effectively cleared the way for the club’s new home and future.
Plans for a new ground and 190 new homes that would more than double the size of Hampton Bishop today won the court's support.
Three judges rejected Hampton Bishop Parish Council’s challenge to the plan, landing the parish council with a hefty legal bill.
It must pay £25,000 towards Herefordshire Council’s costs of contesting it’s challenges in the High Court and Appeal Court.
And on top of that the parish council will also have its own legal costs to pay.
But the parish council can still take its case to the Supreme Court
Giving the Court’s ruling this morning, Lord Justice Richards declined to quash Herefordshire Council's decision to grant outline planning permission for the scheme.
The club wants to leave its current Wyeside home for Hampton Bishop 3km away.
This morning’s decision backed a High Court ruling last December that upheld the planning permission, finding that the council planning committee had approached its decision properly.
The court this morning also rejected a claim that the council breached European regulations by attaching a planning obligation to the permission which will see the existing ground transferred to it for just £1.
The parish council complained that the rugby club was “buying planning permission” and argued that the 190 new homes will more than double the number of houses in its area.
As planned, the development gives the club an HQ with four adult pitches, two junior pitches, a 3G training pitch, an indoor training facility, a clubhouse and a 400-seat spectator stand.
The parish council claims that the development will completely transform the area concerned and irretrievably change its character.
It branded the council's grant of permission as "unlawful" on the basis it had failed to decide whether the proposal complied with the development plan for the area, and added that it had granted permission against the recommendation of its own planning officers.
However, Lord Justice Richards said this morning that while councillors had considered that the development was not in accordance with the local development plan they had taken the view that the departure from the development plan was “justified by other material considerations.”
Rejecting the complaint about the £1 transfer to the council of the existing site, Lord Justice Richards said the existing ground was going to be released as a direct result of the development for which planning permission was sought.
Helping safeguard the continuation of use of the ground for sport and recreation was, he said, “far removed” from “buying”’ planning permission but, instead “ fits comfortably” within the requirement that the planning obligation be directly related to the development.
It is still open to the Parish Council to seek to challenge today’s ruling in the Supreme Court.