A judge has ruled that ministers should have given reasons for refusing to call in Renzo Piano’s controversial Paddington Cube scheme in London
The Court of Appeal rebuked the government for failing to follow its own rules, pointing out that under existing policy, ministers must give reasons when they decline to call in planning applications.
The court said ministers and government officials had ‘forgotten altogether’ that they had promised in 2001– and restated in 2010 – they would make their decision-making public.
In his judgement, Lord Justice Coulson said: ‘An unequivocal promise was made, and that unequivocal promise should have been publicly withdrawn when (or if) a conscious decision was taken no longer to give reasons for not calling in applications…
’For these reasons, I consider that SAVE’s legitimate expectation case has been made out.’
The case was brought to court by campaigners from heritage group SAVE Britain’s Heritage who celebrated the decision as a victory that will ‘resonate through the planning system’.
The group’s director, Henrietta Billings, said: ‘This is a fantastic result that opens up the decision-making process for highly contested major schemes across the country. It literally changes the landscape of decision making – and is a major victory for openness and transparency.’
SAVE’s executive president, Marcus Binney, added: ‘In recent years it has become increasingly hard to secure public inquiries into even the most controversial schemes which have attracted major opposition both locally and nationally, and which are often approved by councils in complete disregard of their own planning policies – as in this case.
This major Whitehall blunder will resonate through the planning system
‘The ringing judgment, calling ministers and civil servants to account, and criticising a major Whitehall blunder, will resonate through the planning system.’
The contentious west London project replaces a 110-year-old former Royal Mail sorting office with a 54m x 54m x 54m office block.
In November 2017, the High Court dismissed SAVE’s application for a full judicial review of then communities secretary Sajid Javid’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into the scheme.
A statement from the project’s developer, Sellar, said: ‘We have noted the decision [about Javid not having given any reasons] but it really will have no impact on the planning consent at Paddington Square which has approval and is now being implemented.’