Saturday, 25 March 2017

Legal challenge to Earls Court regen blocked

A High Court judge has thrown out a legal challenge which threatened to derail an £8 billion regeneration scheme.

Judge Justice John Mitting on Monday refused permission for a judicial review of Hammersmith & Fulham’s decision to sign an exclusivity deal with a developer as part of plans to demolish two estates.

The Conservative-led council has agreed to work on a deal with developer Capital & Counties to include the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in the Earls Court regeneration project. Tenants’ associations on the estates oppose the proposed demolition and instead want to take ownership of the properties themselves.

Harold Greatwood, a West Kensington estate resident, lodged a claim for judicial review of the conditional land sale agreement.

However Mr Mitting today refused the application on all four grounds on which Mr Greatwood challenged.

Mr Mitting rejected Mr Greatwood’s claims that there was not a fair and proper consultation.

The ruling said: ‘The time for consultation – nine weeks – was adequate. It is unreasonable to expect the defendant to send a printed copy of the draft equalities and impact assessment to every consultee.

‘Finally the suggestion that because the defendant did not address the consultation documents to tenants by name or to the tenant, the process was flawed, is absurd.’

Mr Mitting also rejected a claim that an equalities impact assessment was inadequate and dismissed a suggestion that the land sale agreement was motivated by improper political considerations as ‘no more than an assertion’.

Following the court’s decision, the council and Capital & Counties today signed the land sale agreement.

Nicholas Botterill, leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: ‘The redevelopment of Earls Court is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the local residents to benefit from a multi-billion pound investment in their own neighbourhood.’

Jonathan Rosenberg, an activist supporting Mr Greatwood and the tenants and residents associations on the estate, played down the significance of the ruling and said campaigners still have a number of avenues to go down to halt the project.

He said: ‘Our campaign has so many irons in the fire that we are not in a position where any one thing will win us or lose us the campaign.’

The TRAs have been given permission for a separate judicial review in which they allege that Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea Councils broke the law by not designating a planning document as a development plan document requiring government approval.

Hammersmith & Fulham is also facing allegations that it broke the law by offering tenants priority for homes in a new development in return for supporting the regeneration scheme. Campaigners have handed in a dossier of evidence to the Metropolitan Police, which is assessing the information. The council, which denies the allegations, has appointed Deloitte to carry out an investigation.  

A complaint about former council leader Stephen Greenhalgh, now London deputy mayor of policing, relating to the allegations has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC is considering what action to take. Mr Greenhalgh denies any wrong-doing.

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