Earls Court legal challenge fails

Plans to inject £8billion of private investment into Earls Court and West Kensington, in one of the UK’s biggest regeneration projects since the Olympics, are on track after a legal challenge to the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for the Opportunity Area failed.

The redevelopment of Earls Court and the surrounding area will create up to 9,500 new permanent jobs, with an additional 36,000 construction jobs during the build phase. It will also include 7,583 new homes, new shops, offices, leisure facilities, public open space, a new school, new transport links, healthcare centre and community centre on the 77 acre site in a community improvement package that totals £490million.

Yesterday, Wednesday, October 9, Mr Justice Keith Lindblom, sitting in the High Court dismissed the case against the SPD on all four grounds.

The judicial review was brought forward by some residents of the Gibbs Green and Dieppe Close Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) and West Kensington Estate TRA.

As part of the project, the council has entered into a Conditional Land Sale Agreement (CLSA) with developer EC Properties LP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Capital & Counties Properties PLC, to include both estates in the wider development of the area.

Residents of both estates have been offered some of the best terms ever negotiated in any regeneration scheme in the country, including brand new homes and a generous compensation package.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, H&F Council Leader said:

“This is the third legal challenge that has been dismissed since the turn of the year. We now want to put all our efforts into progressing this once-in-a-lifetime scheme so we can reap the huge rewards and bring major, life-changing improvements to Earls Court and the wider area.

“All qualifying tenants will be offered a brand new home, white goods, moving costs and support as well as a compensation package of £4,700. The legally binding contracts state that no tenant will move until their new home is ready to be occupied. All new homes will be provided in the area. All eligible home owners will receive 10% compensation on the independently-verified value of their home and the chance to buy back into the redevelopment with a 10% discount.”

The TRAs sought to legally challenge decisions by Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to adopt the Earls Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area Joint Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

The TRA’s chose to challenge the SPD on the following four highly technical grounds.

They claimed that the SPD was an Area Action Plan and as such a Development Plan Document (DPD). They argued that the council had therefore erred in law by failing to follow the statutory consultation and adoption process for a DPD.

They also said that the council acted unlawfully and irrationally in adopting a supplementary planning policy which was in conflict with adopted planning policy.

They also said that the council had unlawfully failed to consider the need to replace the social housing lost to the estates’ demolition in breach of the council’s core strategy.

They also claimed that there had been multiple breaches of the SEA directive and Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (the SEA regulations).

All four grounds were dismissed by Mr Justice Lindblom save to the extent that the Councils were ordered to prepare a statement, complying with the SEA regulations, setting out how environmental considerations were taken into account in the preparation of the SPD.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council resolved to grant outline planning consent for the scheme in September 2012. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea resolved to grant outline planning permission for their element of the scheme in November 2012.

Earlier this summer (Wednesday, July 4) the Mayor of London decided he did not wish to direct refusal of permission or call in the application for his determination. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government also decided not to call in the planning application in August.

Residents have now been told when they are likely to move into new housing provided by the development. The new phasing plan halves the target construction period from 20 years to an estimated ten. Just under a quarter (151) of the 760 replacement homes could be ready to be occupied between 2016 and 2018 in the first phase of construction.

The Judge’s decision is subject to appeal.