Heritage campaigners have been granted a judicial review of Boris Johnson’s decision to ‘call in’ controversial plans for Norton Folgate in east London
Mr Justice Collins allowed objectors the right to challenge the Mayor of London’s initial decision to take over as planning authority on the proposed City-fringe project - a hearing which will be held at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Johnson intervened last September, two months after Tower Hamlets’ councillors had thrown out the contentious 32,550m² scheme designed by AHMM, Duggan Morris, DSDHA and Stanton Williams.
Earlier this month Johnson overturned the local authority and gave British Land the green light for the plans which feature new offices, retail space and 40 apartments at Blossom Street in Spitalfields.
However campaign group the Spitalfields Trust, which has been fighting an ongoing battle against the City fringe development, had already challenged the mayor’s original decision to call in the scheme, citing ‘procedural irregularities’.It is understood court documents were lodged by the Trust in October.
The campaign group believes that GLA officers could not have properly considered documents relating to the case, having taken just 24 hours to decide to call in the application.
It called for a judicial review on three further grounds – that Johnson failed to have regard for the trust’s challenge that statutory criteria for his intervention were not met; that he overstated the impact of the development on the London Plan; and that the scheme’s impact on more than one London borough was incorrectly assessed.
A statement from the Spitalfields Trust, said: ‘Boris Johnson has become accustomed to the use of his powers as Mayor of London to intervene to decide prominent planning disputes in the capital. The GLA website lists thirteen such interventions – and every one of them has produced the same result….a decision in favour of the developers, and against that of the local authority.’
It added: ‘The Spitalfields Trust has, through a Freedom of Information request, obtained evidence of procedural irregularities in the GLA’s handling of the case – and has launched a Judicial Review to challenge his intervention. This, we believe, is the first legal questioning of the Mayor’s conduct in such a matter. It raises issues of wide importance.
‘Because the Mayor’s handling of these cases is essentially autocratic – the decision is taken by one man alone, and cannot subsequently be challenged – it is of the utmost importance that the correct procedures are followed as a safeguard of the public interest.’
The case is likely to be heard before 5 May.
Statement from British Land
’We are disappointed with the judge’s decision to allow the case to proceed to a hearing but remain confident of the final outcome. We hope that the hearing will take place as quickly as possible.’