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Campaigners' last ditch attempt to halt Norton Folgate

Blossom Street/North Folgate scheme for British Land by AHMM et al - rejected July 2015
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Conservationists have appealed against last week’s High Court decision allowing the contentious Norton Folgate scheme designed by AHMM, DSDHA, Duggan Morris and Stanton Williams 

The Spitalfields Trust said it would launch the challenge after its unsuccessful judicial review of former London mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to approve the City Fringe project.

In its initial court action the trust claimed Johnson had failed to follow correct procedures when he called-in the controversial mixed-use proposals just hours after they were rejected by Tower Hamlets council.

But Justice Gilbart, a planning judge, upheld Johnson’s decision and dismissed the trust’s application for a judicial review.

Now the campaign group has said it will appeal on that grounds that Gilbart’s ruling ’definitively established that errors were made by the GLA on all four of the the trust’s grounds’ (see full statement below).

The trust’s appeal is the latest stage in a long-running row over plans by British Land to redevelop the streets and buildings dating back to the 18th century in an area called Norton Folgate, on the edge of Spitalfields.

The developer intends to build 33,040m² of office space, 3,550m² of shops and restaurants, 40 apartments and 1,400m² of public space in its ‘Blossom Street’ development.

Led by architectural historian Dan Cruickshank, the trust has been fighting a running battle against the proposals for more than a year, warning that the new development will destroy part of London’s heritage with the demolition of many buildings in the area. The trust had even drawn up its own alternative plans for the site with architect John Burrell of Burrell Foley Fisher.

It is unknown when the appeal with be heard.

British Land has been contacted for a comment.

Full statement by the Spitalfield Trust  

The Spitalfields Trust is naturally disappointed at the outcome of the Judicial Review.  However there is more to this than the simple ruling: there is the full text of Mr Justice Gilbart’s judgment to consider.

This reveals that, in significant respects, the position taken by the Trust has been advanced.  It is now definitively established that errors were made by the GLA on all four of the the Trust’s grounds – on the impact of Crossrail, on the cross-boundary effects of Crossrail, on the failure to take account of the Trust’s representations on the statutory criteria for Mayoral intervention, on the premature sending of an email confirming the planning officer’s recommendation.

The judgment establishes that a series of errors were made, with wider implications for the Mayor of London’s handling of planning applications.  There is the matter of the weight that should be given to these mistakes – and the judge considered that each of these errors would not have made a difference to the take-over decision.

The Trust disagrees.  It contends that the errors need to be considered in their totality, and their significance tested by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal may consider that the errors go further:

  • That the misunderstanding of the criteria which has been identified in respect of Crossrail point to mistakes in identifying economic impacts and effects.
  • That significant impacts needed to be addressed across the London Plan as a whole and that the Mayor failed to do so.
  • That, having told the developer what the recommendation would be before reading statutorily relevant material, officers then wrote a report which was relentlessly supportive of the recommendation, omitting any arguments that the first two statutory criteria were not met.
  • That officers who proceed on the basis of ‘recommendation first, evidence second’ and who privately tell the developer what they will – not might – say cannot be relied upon when they misreport the contrary view and make substantive errors. The judge did not grapple with this ‘poisoning of the well’ issue.

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • 'Recommendations first, evidence second' would appear to have been an integral part of the modus operandi of Mayor Johnson and Co - witness TfL's disgraceful Garden Bridge fixes, and the colossal financial 'black hole' created by its 'fudging' of the contract for the surface lines signalling upgrade..
    Is it possible that the judiciary in the Norton Folgate affair are wary of lifting the lid on that particular can for fear of a lot more than worms crawling out - and of the wider impact of a successful challenge to the probity of Mayor Johnson's decisions?

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