Stokey Local report some great news (the Judicial Review has safely crossed its first hurdle) and urges you, if you have not already, please, please write a personal letter to the National Planning Case Unit (NPCU) team who are evaluating whether or not to ‘call in’ the third application (and get others to do the same).
The Council rejected the applicant’s first application for the Sainsbury/Wilmer Place development (we can forget that application).
The developer then reapplied (with minor amendments) and the Council approved the second application. Stokey Local supporter Nick Perry sought a judicial review of that decision. As part of the legal process, on Tuesday 17th December, a judge (Mr Justice Collins) in the High Court considered whether to grant permission for the matter to go to a full hearing. This ‘permission’ stage is designed to ‘filter out’ applications that have little realistic chance of success.
The judge granted permission (hooray) and went on to say: ‘There can be no doubt that the decision that the development was not EIA development was defective …’ I’ll just repeat that: ‘There can be no doubt …’
The judge’s decision also agrees that two other grounds are ‘arguable’ this is in fact the normal language of these decisions.
What this means is that a High Court judge has formed the view that we have a reasonable chance of winning the judicial review of the council’s decision to grant planning permission of the second application.
This does not mean that we have won the judicial review; neither does it mean that we are certain to win it, but it does mean we are one step closer to having our concerns heard.
This is where it gets complicated.
After we submitted our judicial review, the developer submitted a third application for planning permission that was identical to the second. They were trying to out-manoeuvre our judicial review and were confident that as the Council was defending the judicial review they would have to approve the third (identical) application. This is indeed what happened. However, we have argued all along that it was inappropriate for the council to decide the third application when they were actively defending the second application (it was in our view a form of ‘pre-determination’ as they had already determined the application once and were arguing that they had done so correctly).
What you can do
We are currently urging everyone to seek to get the third application ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State so that it can be properly considered.
Equally importantly, can you get other people to write. We have cross party support for this, a petition of over 6,000 names, and numerous letters of support. What we need now is to increase the number of letters of support, and ensure we have some with ‘celebrity status’ and from beyond Hackney.
- If you have not written, please do so now (see suggested bullet points below).
- If you know people with ‘standing’, i.e. local faith leaders, celebrities, politicians, or just ‘opinion formers’, then please urge them to add their names.
- Finally, we need to demonstrate this is more than a local issue, so if you use your Facebook, or Twitter accounts (or phone calls to your friends who are outside London but who care about these issues ) urging people to write in that would be much appreciated
Perhaps you could tweet:
‘High Court judge rules in favour of #StokeyLocal in judicial review preliminary hearing: http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=c747f6d2c72e4ced2ac01c000&id=8cd92e7681&e= please RT‘
Grounds for the Call-In
Please use the bullet points below to help illustrate your concerns in your email to the Secretary of State (firstname.lastname@example.org) quoting “LB Hackney Land at Wilmer Place 2013/3186 & 3187″
Conflict with national policy:
In recommending granting the application under your consideration, the LPA sought to rectify a defect in the second application where it relied almost solely on the NPPF. Collins J remarked of the defect
“137 [of the NPPF] does require positive enhancement or preservation. It is far from clear that this was fully considered.”
We maintain the application under your consideration paid only lip service to local policy and failed to properly consider the relative weight of the NPPF with respect to the Local Plan, Conservation Area Appraisal, emerging Site Allocations LP, and other hyper-local policy. Unpicking this conflict with national policy is a matter of national significance.
The LPA failed to justify there would not be “substantial harm” because the term is not clearly defined. Nor did the LPA appreciate or correctly interpret concerns made by English Heritage.
Development of more than local significance:
The development affects the setting and ecology of Abney Park Cemetery – a site of more than local importance. Abney Park Cemetery is a Statutory Grade II Listed Garden and top-tier Metropolitan Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). It is one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Cemeteries.
The development comes right up to the boundary of Abney Park and fills an undeveloped ‘buffer zone’ explicitly defined in local policy to protect the Park.
Significant architectural and urban design issues:
This is a highly significant development which requires the highest standard of assessment – beyond the usual expertise of the LPA.
It is the first development of this scale in vicinity of Hackney’s most important ecological asset – Abney Park.
It is the largest ever insertion of a retail development into a Conservation Area in the borough.
The LPA has repeatedly demonstrated little understanding of the ecological and environmental sensitivity despite the Planning Sub-committee refusing an earlier iteration of the scheme on two environmental grounds.
Collins J agrees there may be merit in our claim that this should be an EIA development in light of the LPA’s Planning Sub-Committee’s prior refusal:
“The previous refusal was based on substantial harm and so indicated that it should then have been regarded as EIA development. … it seems to me that Ground 1 is for the reasons fully set out in the claim form arguable.”
Significant long-term impact on economic growth and meeting housing need:
The LPA refused to allowed the developer’s financial viability assessment to be evaluated by the public – whilst permitting a development that achieves only 17% (9/54) affordable homes with just two at social rent. The Local Plan policy target is 50% affordable units of which 60% should be social rent.
There has been no formal assessment of the current residential and commercial tenants of the site. Voluntary surveying of the 30+ residential units and 40+ commercial units which will be demolished shows current rents are around 65% of market rates and there will be a significant net reduction in affordable homes and a total removal of affordable workspaces.
Any employment gain would be marginal and “lower quality” employment. The current “higher quality” employment space would be obliterated, affecting the long-term economic growth opportunities of the local and wider area.
The application departs significantly from the local development plan and requires thorough public examination. However, any evidence to support the application has been seen only by officers with limited expertise and external surveyors working to a limited brief.
Substantial national controversy:
As they are not required to do so, processing an application identical to the one already denied, on the promise the applicant withdraws their appeal, suggests the LPA is motivated by the cost of defending the appeal.
Indeed, the Sub-committee admit the virtually identical second application was granted not on planning grounds but out of fear of appeal.
Processing an application identical to the first, with none of the critical factors addressed, must surely result in the same outcome. But, blinded by fear, the Planning Sub-committee cannot be expected to have an open mind on the matter.
The fact that the LPA are even processing an identical application raises issues of fairness and propriety.
The application is overwhelmingly unpopular and yet the LPA fails to consider the massive local objection.
The highly contentious scheme is way off local policy and undermines the purpose of local decision-making.
By proceeding to determine this application, the LPA brings the planning system into disrepute
See more at Stokey Local and as ever, a big thank-you to everyone who has supported this campaign.