Stokey Local have announced that last Monday 19th May 2014, at the Royal Courts of Justice, the first hearing took place relating to the judicial review of the Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the Sainsbury’s/Wilmer Place development.
Stokey Local goes on to say that originally, this was intended as a full hearing of the judicial review of the Council’s first decision to grant planning permission in August (JR1). However, after a number of legal arguments it was decided that it was best to use the time to address a range of procedural issues – including whether there is a case to answer on challenging the second decision (JR2) and if so, whether both cases should be heard together).
The case has been taken forward by Nick Perry, but he has the support of the community at large in seeking to prevent a development which actually reduces the number of “affordable” housing units on site, damages the biodiversity of Abney Park Cemetery and will undermine the viability of many of independent stores on the High Street and Church Street.
Thanks to the sterling efforts of our team of barristers (who are working on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis) we have been granted permission to proceed with the judicial review of the second planning permission (you may recall that the developer sought to outmanoeuvre JR1, by getting the Council to grant planning permission for a second identical application).
The permission judgment basically says that on all of the points we raised about the second planning permission, we have an ‘arguable’ point. It doesn’t mean we will necessarily win – the full court hearing will decide that – just that there is a case to be answered. That we have permission on all the points is very, very good news.
Given this decision, it is highly unlikely that the developer will now try the same trick of seeking a further grant of planning permission for the same development. The two Judicial Reviews will now be heard together and the lawyers will have to submit a revised set of court documents for the combined cases in the next few weeks. Then there will be one hearing on both Judicial Reviews, lasting two or three days, these are expected to take place 14, 15 and 16 October.
As Russell, our expert on biodiversity observed, it ‘means the site is safe for at least another summer (which the bees and other insects will appreciate)’. Of course, if we actually win the case, the site will be protected for a considerably longer period (although the developer could still submit a further application).
Procedural point on disclosure
We also asked the court to order the publication of the full financial viability statement ahead of the Judicial Review. This document was the developer’s justification for there being so few affordable units in their proposal. The Council accepted their arguments but refused to put the statement or its own analysis into the public domain; arguing that publication would jeopardise the developer’s ‘commercial confidentiality’. Our point is that if we don’t see it, we cannot effectively challenge it.
After lengthy reasoning and consideration, the court refused our request for disclosure on this point. In effect the judge ruled that this is a matter for the full hearing, rather than a preliminary stage. So our failure to win that point doesn’t necessarily affect the prospects of the Judicial Review. It just means we don’t have any specific ammunition on the validity or otherwise of the original viability statement. Our legal team (which includes the leading expert on information rights) are considering the possibility of appealing this point.
Separately the Council have undertaken an internal review and have concluded they were right not to release the info. We will be pressing the point formally with the Information Commissioner’s Office, as there are a number of cases that contradict this assertion.
The full judgment on the disclosure and permission on JR2 is available here. And the draft court order that is the output of all this is here.
We originally launched a financial appeal to support Nick’s efforts based on running one JR. While our barristers are working at no cost to our side (on a no-win, no-fee, basis), we still have to pay our solicitor’s fees and any costs for expert reports. The granting of permission to proceed with JR2, effectively means that we need to raise an additional £5,000 to ensure that if we lose (which is a possibility) then we will have sufficient funds to cover any award of costs against Nick.
Consequently, we now need to raise some more money. We are not at this stage asking those who have already donated to give more, rather we are encouraging those who have yet to make a donation to do so.
Many people have given £50, but every little helps, and it is only the widespread support of the community that has allowed us to get this far, and we now have a real chance to overturn the decision at Wilmer Place.
So if you have not donated yet, please consider making a donation now.
- Account name: Stokey Local Community Fund
- Sort code: 08-60-01
- Account number: 20316473
Stokey Local is not a party political group, we have enjoyed widespread support from across the political spectrum, but it is good to see that some of our allies have done particularly well in the recent elections. In Stoke Newington ward, Louisa Thompson, and Susan Fajana-Thomas (both Labour), two great advocates of our campaign were returned. Meanwhile Barry Buitekant (Labour) and Ian Sharer (Lib Dem) who consistently voted to oppose planning permission in the Planning Committee are also both back on the Council. The Green Party, which has been consistently supportive, also received substantial support (although no councillors) coming in second in numerous.
Review and next steps
At the moment, much of the action is taking place in terms of legal arguments about planning procedure, but over the next few weeks we will set up a meeting where we can consider what further steps we can take to unite the community and put pressure on the Council to adopt a better approach to planning in our area.
Now the elections are out of the way, we can consider lobbying the new faces in the Town Hall to get the planning department to be braver and think differently about how the Council can challenge developers.
Thanks for sticking with the campaign. Much still to do, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are a few tricks and turns on the part of the developer and Council, before the substantive hearing of the Judicial Reviews.