Saturday, 28 March 2015

Campaigners force judicial review of HMR fund

A campaign group has won the right to a judicial review of the government’s decision to allocate £35.5 million to help councils hit by the closure of the housing market renewal programme.

In the High Court this week Mrs Justice Lang ruled in favour of Save Britain’s Heritage saying the group ‘is entitled to have its claim considered in a full judicial review and this is in the public interest’. The judicial review is expected in January.

In November 2011 the Communities and Local Government department allocated £35.5 million to 13 of the areas worst hit by the closure of the £2.25 billion HMR programme. The money, which was match funded by councils, was intended to bring homes back into use.

It subsequently emerged councils were intending to spend around 98 per cent of the money on demolition. Save argued this was not the original intention of the fund, and the government had acted unlawfully in approving the bids.

The government has conceded the money was allocated unlawfully, but argued there was no point in taking the case to judicial review as most of the money has already been spent.

Barrister James Eadie said it would be ‘futile and wasteful to spend public money litigating a claim that has been overtaken by events’.

Save argued only around half the money has been spent, and as many of the buildings acquired using the funds have not yet been demolished it could instead be spent on refurbishment.

Following the judge’s decision to allow a judicial review, Save has written to the 13 authorities suggesting it would be ‘imprudent’ of them to spend any more of the money until after the case has been heard.

Clem Cecil, director of Save, said: ‘We hope this will steel Mr Pickles’ resolve to help residents still in the grip of an extremely destructive policy.’

A CLG spokesperson said: ‘We cannot comment on matters subject to legal proceedings.’

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