A forensic botanist who helped to catch murderer Ian Huntley, has spoken of her disgust at a court ruling that allows the construction of golf course on grass chalkland.

Other environmentalists have warned that the Cherkley Court case sets a legal precedent that puts other landscapes and areas of great biodiversity at risk.

This month the Supreme Court refused to let countryside campaigners appeal against a decision which reinstated planning permission for a golf course at an estate near Leatherhead.

Dr Patricia Wiltshire, who helped to jail Huntley for the Soham murders by finding pollen and plant evidence, said: "This is a cause for great disappointment and a degree of disgust.

"The whole matter was executed incorrectly, and little notice was taken of the protestation by campaigners that decisions were based on misinformation, and ineptitude.

"Mole Valley District councillors and staff demonstrated ignorance, and a lack of care for our local landscapes, and they will never be forgiven for what has happened.

"More widely, I am appalled that the judiciary has such complete control."

Epsom Guardian:

Dr Patricia Wiltshire

Dr Wiltshire said very few judges have any scientific knowledge and they have "little concept" of the environmental damage wrought by developments such as Cherkley Court.

She added: "There is little doubt that this Government is in favour of promoting development wherever it can. It does not seem to be interested in conserving the British landscape, especially where investment is concerned."

But developer Longshot Cherkley Court has argued that campaigners simply do not appreciate the extraordinary lengths they are going to in order to protect all aspects of the landscape.

In May one of its directors, Tim Edwards, told the Epsom Guardian: "We are actually building something that embraces the biodiversity and ecology and enhances it."

Epsom Guardian: Cherkley Court, former home of legendary press baron Lord Beaverbrook

Councillor John Northcott, executive member for planning at Mole Valley Council, said the development control committee decided the plans would benefit the locality and met the requirements of planning law back in 2012.

Coun Northcott said: "When the decision to grant permission (taken after two lengthy debates) was overturned at judicial review in the High Court, the council took its case to the Court of Appeal because it believed the decision of 19 democratically elected councillors, with a thorough understanding of the issues, the site and the local community, was legitimate.

"This has been a lengthy process through the courts and I am delighted that this matter has been concluded. Most importantly, the council’s decision-making process and the judgement of the development control committee have been found to be sound."

Epsom Guardian:

Councillor John Northcott

But Councillor David Preedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, said he was very disappointed that the Supreme Court has decided to leave the Court of Appeal's interpretation of need in place.

He warned that the decision of the Court of Appeal, which reinstated planning permission, casts doubt on what the word need means in planning policies.

Coun Preedy said: "Need is now to be treated as a ‘protean and chameleon-like’ concept and if any developer can demonstrate demand for a project this amounts to proving it is needed.

"This opens the door for developers to secure permission for other schemes simply because they will be profitable even if they are in other respects against the public interest.

He added: "People who wish to defend our open spaces, greenbelt and other heritage assets, should be concerned that it tips the balance in favour of developers looking for easy profits."

Epsom Guardian:

This concern is shared by Mell Fraser, from Ashtead, who said: "The Cherkley appeal is already being widely used as a reason for various disputed developments to go ahead.

"Our countryside is threatened by an overwhelming tide of concrete."

Professor David Hawksworth CBE, former council member of English Nature, said: "No site will be safe, even if in greenbelt, for developments that adversely affect biodiversity; retaining scientific importance is not a function of the greenbelt."

He added: "The present government is anti-environment and has been systematically castrating official bodies responsible for conservation such as Natural England to the extent that it is now almost non-functional, and reducing the capability of the Natural History Museum and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew to provide specialist surveys and advice."

Epsom Guardian:

Professor David Hawksworth 

Property developer dismisses claims golf course battle became politicised

Campaigners lose legal battle over golf course at Cherkley Court