Wednesday, 20 June 2012

H&F Council lands back at high Court

Our Council is being prosecuted. Again.

The familiar tale of residents versus council, last seen in the astonishing victory of the Goldhawk Road traders over the Shepherd's Bush Market plans, is set to be replayed back in the High Court thanks to the residents of the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates who have launched procedings against the planning policies which underpin the scheme set to demolish their homes.

After a very clear majority of residents rejected the plans in the Council's own consultation our local authority were eventually embarassed by publicity into ending a bizarre smoke and mirrors game in which people were permitted to view nearly 1,000 forms, many of which had been misclassified, but only for 45 minutes for "data protection" reasons. This prompted an extraordinary exchange of letters between H&F's Chief Executive and residents which I published here.

Now the residents have instructed the same solicitors that defeated the Council over the Shepherd's Bush scheme Webster Dixon.

Michael Webster, a partner in the City firm states:
“The Defendants [H&F council and K&C council] have failed to follow the correct procedures in adopting their regeneration plans despite receiving several warnings from residents and others that their actions were unlawful. There is an overwhelming objection by the residents   to the demolition of their homes for the sake of a private development. The protection of family homes and the welfare of individuals, many of whom are vulnerable, should not be sacrificed for the profits of a billion pound developer.”
Gregory Jones QC and Sarah Sackman of Francis Taylor Building Chambers (Barristers) have been instructed by Webster Dixon to represent the Claimants. The Claimants have requested a Judicial Review on the grounds:
  • Ground 1 – The Earl’s Court “SPD” policy document is in substance an Area Action Plan (AAP) and as such is a development plan document (‘DPD’) for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning (Local Development) (England) Regulations 2004 (‘the 2004 Regulations’).
  • Ground 2 – By endorsing the conclusions of the Estates Regeneration Economic Appraisal (EREA), which assessed four different development options all of which were in breach of strategic planning policy for failing to meet affordable housing targets, the Defendants acted unlawfully and/or took into account an irrelevant consideration and further acted unlawfully and irrationally in adopting a supplementary planning policy which was in conflict with adopted planning policy and/or failed to give cogent reasons for departing from policy.
  • Ground 3 – Breach of s.149 Equality Act 2010 and/or failure to take into account material considerations about the impacts of the proposed plans on protected groups, particularly, black and minority ethnic individuals.
  • Ground 4 – Unlawful failure to consider the need to replace the social housing lost to the estates’ demolition in breach of the LBHF core strategy.
  • Ground 5 – Multiple breaches of the SEA Directive and the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/1633).
Sally Taylor, Chair of West Kensington Tenants & Residents Association, and Diana Belshaw, Chair of Gibbs Green Tenants & Residents Association said:
“This is a close knit community; there’s nothing wrong with our homes; we won’t be bullied into demolition. The Council’s planning policy is not only immoral; now we have asked the High Court of Justice to declare it unlawful.”
I said here that this scheme was likely to prove the real test of whether Nick Botterill, H&F's new Leader, really intended to listen to residents instead of the steamroller tactics so beloved of his predecessor. He told me he intended to do just that, and having met him I believe he genuinely wants to. He has always struck me as a straightforward guy who wants to do the right thing by people.

This isn't a mess of his making, and he now has the chance to pull back from what could be a very damaging successive legal defeat. The legal team facing the council have beaten them once already and the residents leaders I have spoken to are very confident of their case. I hope he can find a way of pulling back from the brink.

Tens of thousands of tax payers pounds were lost in the council's defeat over the Goldhawk Road. It's an expensive habit for all of us.


  1. Costs awarded are not the same as the actual costs - I think the bill for the Council's legal team will be a great deal higher than the tens of thousands mentioned.

  2. Infact, the actual cost for the council for the two day hearing was just over £200,000 for the Goldhawk Road case