The High Court has thrown out a legal challenge against Sajid Javid’s decision not to call in Renzo Piano’s controversial £775 million Paddington Cube
At the High Court today (29 November), Mrs Justice Lang dismissed the application by campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which was seeking a full judicial review of the communities secretary’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into the scheme.
The contentious west London project will see a 110-year-old former Royal Mail sorting office replaced with a 54m x 54m x 54m office block.
In February Javid issued an ‘Article 31 direction’ preventing the local authority from signing off the permission for the designs and allowing him time to examine whether the Sellar Property Group-backed project should be called in.
But a month later the Department for Communities and Local Government stated that there would be no public inquiry.
SAVE subsequently challenged Javid’s failure to give full and detailed reasons for not calling in the application – a breach of published policy announced in Parliament in 2001. However Mrs Justice Lang was not convinced.
Responding to the news, SAVE director Henrietta Billings said the judgment sent out a ’very negative message about open and accountable decision-making at the very highest levels of government’.
SAVE’s executive president Marcus Binney added: ‘In this case, scandalously, a published policy to give reasons, announced to parliament, has been overlooked and seemingly changed by civil servants without informing ministers.
SAVE is giving serious consideration to the grounds for appeal
‘The judge concluded that as decisions have been made on this basis since 2014, it can now be considered established policy. It is further remarkable that government officials only explained the change of policy in a late witness statement. SAVE is giving serious consideration to the grounds for appeal to the Court of Appeal provided by our lawyers.’
Piano’s proposed glazed cuboid replaced an earlier concept featuring a huge tower, which was ditched in summer 2016 following criticism from architects, Westminster Council, residents and campaigners concerned about its effect on the capital’s skyline.
But the change did little to appease either SAVE or Historic England, the government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment, which remained unhappy with the revised proposals.
As well as SAVE’s failed challenge, the Cube proposal is also subject to a separate application for judicial review from the Imperial College Hospital Trust, which runs the neighbouring St Mary’s Hospital, on the grounds that the plan could cause serious disruption to the existing ambulance route.
A spokesman for Sellar said: ’We note the court’s decision to dismiss SAVE’s application for a judicial review of the secretary of state’s decision not to give his reasons for not calling in the development of the former Royal Mail Sorting Office at Paddington. The court has also refused permission to appeal the decision.
’The scheme, being developed by Sellar Paddington on behalf of Great Western Developments, has been approved by Westminster City Council and the Mayor of London. We believe the development, which includes a £65million investment in transport infrastructure and public space, will greatly enhance the area around Paddington Station and be a catalyst for further rejuvenation in this part of London.’