Building work to transform Edgbaston cricket ground can go ahead next month after a legal challenge from residents to halt the controversial development fell at the first hurdle.
County Court judge Jack Beatson ruled that the Canon Hill Neighbourhood Forum had no grounds for a judicial review into the granting of planning permission for new stands, floodlights, offices, shops and apartments.
The result means that Edgbaston can meet demanding new guidelines for hosting test matches and guarantee international cricket in Birmingham for years ahead.
In a written submission Warwickshire County Cricket Club chief executive Colin Povey told the court that, after years of planning and fund raising, the club was working to an extremely tight schedule to ensure the renovation would be complete by the time England play India at Edgbaston during summer 2011.
He said the England and Wales Cricket Board believed Edgbaston has “significant deficiencies” including lack of permanent floodlighting, drainage and media facilities.
But added that the club had been awarded the India test by the ECB as a result of his personal assurances that the stadium would be ready in time.
The court heard that the test was worth £600,000 to the club, and even more to the city economy, and that a vital Ashes test in 2013 would be worth much more.
In court lawyers representing the Cannon Hill Neighbourhood Forum claimed that Birmingham City Council had raised concerns over the local bat population, traffic congestion, the effect of floodlights on the area and the ‘moderate’ risk of ground contamination, but failed to answer any of them.
They argued that the decision to award planning permission for the development was therefore unlawful.
But Mr Justice Beatson said that in his view the council’s planning department had considered all the evidence and possibilities and correctly decided that the development did not have a ‘significant environmental impact’ which required further detailed investigation.
He said that an earlier public inquiry over the installation of flood lights, previous inspections of the ground and planning conditions requiring bat surveys be carried out before building work had all addressed those concerns.
He added: “There are no arguable grounds for a judicial review.”
With demolition work due to start in January to ready the ground for full redevelopment following the end of the cricket season in September 2010, residents are now running out of time to stop the plan.
Cannon Hill Forum member Vijay Sarathy said: “I am surprised and disappointed that the judge would not allow us to proceed. We will need to speak to the solicitor to find out what the next step is.”
While saying they support development of the cricket ground itself, they have called for retractable floodlights, similar to ones installed at the Oval in London, rather than five permanent columns. They also oppose the additional development of shops, hotels, offices and apartments next to the ground as far too intensive.
The residents have seven days from the decision to consult with their lawyer and lodge an appeal.