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RELIEF ROAD: No end in sight for MBC's costly High Court action against KCC

Wednesday 7th November 2018

MAIDSTONE Borough Council's High Court legal action against Kent County Council will continue to another stage after a hearing this afternoon.

Liberal Democrat-led MBC's oral hearing convinced Deputy Judge David Elvin QC to let the case proceed to a "substantive hearing" on half of the six grounds for a judicial review.

The case revolves around MBC's unhappiness that KCC used road levies from three specific A274 housing developments to carry out viability studies for a Leeds-Langley relief road. MBC chief executive Alison Broom, pictured, claims the authority needs "clarity" on the issue.

MBC's application for an injunction to prevent KCC using the monies for the studies was thrown out, we understand, as it was too late.

Although today's decision was not a victory for either side, MBC has managed to keep its chances of securing the judicial review alive.

The process will drag the case to beyond Christmas and possibly up to the run-in to next May's crucial borough council elections when the Liberal Democrat's narrow coalition majority will come under threat from a resurgent Tory group under the leadership of John Perry.

MBC brought the action against KCC after years of wrangling between the Lib Dem authority and Tory-run KCC.

A year ago, the two councils agreed to meet in a group headed by MPs Helen Grant and Helen Whately but these have not worked out, according to observers, and ultimately deteriorating to the point of legal action by MBC.

But Lib Dem leader Cllr Martin Cox said after today's hearing that his door is open to discussions with Kent County Council, suggesting that further tax-payer funded court time could be avoided.

After the November 7 hearing, Cllr Cox said: “The objective of the Judicial Review has always been to gain clarity in respect of the use of Section 106 money, secured from developers through the statutory planning process, and intended for specific developments.

“Today’s oral hearing has allowed the merits of our case to be examined and I am satisfied that the Honourable Judge David Elvin QC has intimated that there are sufficient grounds under which to continue our legal challenge against Kent County Council (KCC).

“Throughout this process we have remained open to all discussions with KCC and will continue to maintain that position.”

Daily Downs Mail asked MBC for a breakdown of the total costs to the tax-payer of its management's decision to take KCC to the High Court.

We approached KCC leader Paul Carter for a comment.