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SAVE battles on as work starts on Piano’s Paddington Cube

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Campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been given an appeal date for its legal challenge to the government’s decision not to call in Renzo Piano’s Paddington Cube

Construction work began this week on the controversial £825 million ‘floating’ glass office complex, which will replace the Edwardian former Royal Mail sorting office (by Henry Tanner) next to Paddington Station. 

Opponents of the 14-storey Paddington Cube building – including SAVE, the Georgian Group and the Victorian Society – had urged then Communities secretary Sajid Javid to hold an independent public inquiry into the scheme.

But Javid, who was promoted this week to home secretary in a cabinet reshuffle, temporarily halted the planning process with an Article 31 direction, before handing the green light to the controversial project. 

SAVE argued that Javid should have set out his reasons for the refusal, in line with government policy. However, in November 2017 the High Court dismissed the application for a full judicial review into why he didn’t order a public inquiry into the scheme.

Now the group has been granted permission to challenge this ‘government failure’ at the Court of Appeal on 19 July.

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE, said: ‘An essential part of this [inquiry] process is that the Secretary of State gives reasons when he declines to hold an inquiry. 

’This was established policy, announced through Parliament but was changed by civil servants without any announcement and even more surprisingly without telling ministers.’

Granting permission for the appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said: ’The question whether the Secretary of State may adopt a policy which does not conform with his published policy is an important one, and this ground of appeal has a real prospect of success.’

But in a blow to the campaigners, the judge refused to allow the group to continue with its challenge to Westminster Council’s 2016 decision to grant planning permission, meaning construction work is expected to continue.

Henrietta Billings from SAVE said the campaigners were turning their attention to the decision-making process and transparency within government.

She said: ‘We hope our challenge will clarify the law and make sure ministers make public their reasons for decisions, so that individuals, community groups and anyone interested in government decision making will have the opportunity to understand and scrutinise decisions around public inquiries.’

The Cube was proposed by developer Sellar and owner Great Western Developments after plans for a previous Renzo Piano design, the 72-storey ’Paddington Pole’, were dropped following strong local opposition.

Demolition of the former Royal Mail sorting office will start later this year. The Paddington Cube – branded Paddington Square by the development team – is due to be handed over in 2022.

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