Parish council High Court showdown over Ben Burgess move decision

Norwich-based farm machinery firm Ben Burgess says its proposed new headquarters at Swainsthorpe is

A High Court judicial review is to begin into the decision making behind plans by Ben Burgess to move to Swainsthorpe. - Credit: Ben Burgess

A company's controversial bid to move its Norfolk farm machinery headquarters will take centre stage at the High Court today - when a parish council challenges a decision by Norfolk County Council.

Ben Burgess wants to move from near County Hall in Norwich to a new two-storey headquarters off the A140, near Swainsthorpe, with plans lodged with South Norfolk Council.

Norfolk County Council, as the highways authority, was consulted over the potential move.

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich

The Conservative-controlled cabinet at Norfolk County Council agreed not to object to the mooted move. - Credit: Archant

Highways officers at County Hall initially said they would recommend refusal, because a new junction on the A140 to serve the building would be against the council's policies.

They said a new roundabout at an existing junction could overcome concerns, but the one put forward was not at an existing junction.

At a meeting of the Conservative-controlled council cabinet in September, councillors agreed not to object.

They said the economic impact outweighed the concerns of its own officers and that the council’s director of highways and waste had said the proposed roundabout would be safe.

The company had previously said the Swainsthorpe site was the only viable option and that Norfolk could lose jobs if it had to relocate further afield.

But Swainsthorpe Parish Council questioned the legality and reasonableness of that process and, along with campaign group Saving Swainsthorpe, raised the money to launch a legal challenge, seeking what is known as a judicial review.

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Mrs Justice Lang ruled their claims were  "cogent and arguable" and granted permission for a judicial review into the matter.

At the High Court today, she will hear evidence from both sides before deciding whether the county council acted unlawfully or not.

South Norfolk Council is unlikely to discuss the actual planning application until after the judge's ruling on the judicial review hearing.

The challenge comes just months after a judicial review found Norfolk County Council had acted unlawfully over changes it made to costs it charged disabled people.

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