SAVE Britain’s Heritage has won an initial legal challenge against communities secretary Sajid Javid’s decision not to call in Renzo Piano’s controversial £775 million Paddington Cube
At the High Court yesterday (15 August), Judge Ross Cranston gave the campaign group permission to proceed with a full judicial review of Javid’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into the plans, which would see a 110-year-old former Royal Mail sorting office replaced with a 54m x 54m x 54m office block.
The contentious west London scheme – a successor to the doomed 72-storey Paddington Pole skyscraper proposal – was approved by Westminster City Council last December despite opposition from heritage campaigners.
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.
However a month later the Department for Communities and Local Government responded, stating simply that there would be no public inquiry.
SAVE subsequently challenged the secretary of state’s failure to give full and detailed reasons for not calling in the application and has now been given the green light to take the matter to a full judicial review. The case is expected to be heard in the High Court within the next three months.
SAVE director Henrietta Billings said: ‘This challenge goes to the heart of transparent and accountable decision-making in government.
‘We believe ministerial decisions must stand up to robust scrutiny. We are pleased this challenge will now proceed.’
Piano’s proposed office block scheme 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.
The changes did little to appease both SAVE and Historic England, the government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment, which remained unhappy with the revised proposals.
Earlier this year Barbara Weiss, co-founder of the Skyline Campaign, told the AJ that the building was ‘still incredibly tall in relation to the existing context, and would be very harmful to the character of the surrounding conservation areas’.
She added: ‘From a design perspective, the Cube still comes across as a “greedy” solution: too big for its site and of no great architectural merit or finesse. The much-vaunted new public realm – the carrot that is constantly brought up as the main benefit to locals – lacks vision.
A spokesperson for the Sellar Property Group and project partner Great Western Developments (GWD), a subsidiary of Singapore’s Hotel Properties, said: ’We note yesterday’s court decision to grant SAVE Heritage a judicial review relating to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s decision not to call-in [our plans].
’GWD and Sellar note that SAVE is only challenging the Secretary of State’s failure to give reasons not to call in the application rather than the validity of the planning consent. It is not a challenge to the planning permission that was granted on the 14 August, following signing of the s106 agreement. That permission remains unaffected by the judicial review and work on the development will continue.’