Last year a High Court judge upheld a decision by Sajid Javid, the then communities secretary, not to call in the planning application for the redevelopment of a former Royal Mail site to a 54 metre tall office building in central London. The proposed building known as the “Paddington Cube” is a large 19-storey, office tower and was to be situated next to Paddington Station, a grade I listed building situated within the Bayswater conservation area.
The High Court judge ruled that Javid had not been obliged to give his reasons for allowing Westminster City Council to issue the final planning decision on the scheme.
On 4th October 2018 the Court of Appeal ruled that Javid should have justified the reasons for refusing to call in the planning application. Richard Harwood QC, for SAVE, accepted that there was no statutory duty on Javid to explain his reasoning, but argued that, it had been established government policy laid before Parliament in December 2001, to give reasons for refusing to call in planning applications.
However, the practice of the Department of Communities and Local Government – now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – changed in January 2014 and, since then, such decisions have been given without reasons with little recourse.
Although work on the Paddington Cube will continue, SAVE said the court’s decision has crucial implications for transparency and ministerial accountability for the future.
Upholding SAVE’s appeal today, Lord Justice Coulson said there could be no doubt that, in 2001, the government had made “an express promise that reasons would be given” for decisions to not call in planning applications. SAVE had a “legitimate expectation” that reasons would be given by Javid in this case, he said: “I do not consider that the relevant promise has ever been withdrawn.”
It was declared that SAVE should have been given justification as to the reasons why Javid refused to call the application in. Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE, said: “In recent years it has become increasingly hard to secure public inquiries into even the most controversial schemes which have attracted major opposition both locally and nationally, and which are often approved by councils in complete disregard of their own planning policies – as in this case.”
10 October 2018