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Fresh Supreme Court application could sidestep judicial review

A fresh planning application for Feilden & Mawson Architects' controversial Supreme Court has been submitted to Westminster Council - a move which could derail a potentially damaging High Court challenge.

The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) has confirmed it has taken the unusual step of lodging a second application to transform the Grade II-listed Middlesex Guildhall in Parliament Square, central London, into Britain's first Supreme Court. But it stressed the latest move reflected flaws in the planning process and not the architect's design.

Planning permission and listed building consent - fully supported by English Heritage - was granted by Westminster City Council last September. But campaign group SAVE Britain's Heritage secured a judicial review against the council in January - a move which could indefinitely delay the £30 million scheme.

A DCA spokesman admitted the review proceedings were a 'complicating factor'. He added: 'The second application will be a way to secure clear planning consent at the earliest possibility and ensure the building is ready by 2009.'

Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, head of the DCA, said: 'The judicial review is about the way in which the issues were presented by Westminster planning officers to the committee, and as a result whether there was an error in law in the way that [the authority] reached its decision. It is about the process, it is not about the content of the application.

'I am named as an interested party in the case, and my department and I are fully supportive of Westminster City Council. Westminster City Council lodged their defence on 16 February, which we supported, in which they defend the decision.'

He added: 'The courts are now deciding whether or not there is a case to be heard. In the interim, I have decided to re-submit the application for listed building and planning consent for the Middlesex Guildhall to Westminster City Council.'

But SAVE Britain's Heritage secretary Adam Wilkinson is convinced the fresh planning application is a thinly veiled attempt to scupper the judicial review. Wilkinson told the AJ: '[The DCA] are trying to negate the judicial review. They want us to put it on hold because a second application has been submitted.

He went on: 'This is effectively admitting there is something wrong with the first one. We're having none of it. Either submit to the judges or withdraw the application.'

The judicial review is set for 26 March.

by Clive Walker

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