Norton Folgate, The Fight Is On Again!
Hundreds joined hands to encircle Norton Folgate last summer
At a meeting on Tuesday night, the Spitalfields Trust decided to go to the Court of Appeal to challenge the verdict delivered by Justice Gilbart on Monday in favour of the Mayor of London and against the Trust in their campaign to prevent British Land destroying Norton Folgate.
There is a consensus that the Judge’s confirmation of the mishandling of the Mayor’s call-in of the Norton Folgate planning application cannot be squared with his conclusion that the Mayor’s decision to approve the development is legitimate. What kind of justice is it to confirm that powerful people can break the rules and get away with it? You have to ask yourself at which point such mishandling becomes abuse of power.
In their official statement (issued yesterday and published below) the Spitalfields Trust chose to widen their challenge by questioning the partial nature of the Mayor’s call-in whereby the GLA planning officers wrote their recommendations to suit the predetermined decision, emphasising the supposed benefits of the development and neglecting other factors. This is termed the ‘poisoning of the well’ issue and it brings the entire process into disrepute.
The notion that a Mayor of London who calls himself the ‘friend of developers’ should have the power to overrule planning decisions made democratically by local authorities is questionable. When this same Mayor stages a hearing and planning officers write reports to confirm his predetermined outcome this is highly questionable. When Justice Gilbart chose the opportunity of delivering his verdict to declare that it ‘warmed the cockles of his heart’ to read Boris Johnson’s words in the transcript of the hearing, this suggests a cosy level of flippant complacency which is also questionable.
The fight is on!
STATEMENT BY THE SPITALFIELDS TRUST, 12th May 2016
The Spitalfields Trust is naturally disappointed at the outcome of the Judicial Review. However there is more to this than the simple ruling: there is the full text of Mr Justice Gilbart’s judgment to consider.
This reveals that, in significant respects, the position taken by the Trust has been advanced. It is now definitively established that errors were made by the GLA on all four of the the Trust’s grounds – on the impact of Crossrail, on the cross-boundary effects of Crossrail, on the failure to take account of the Trust’s representations on the statutory criteria for Mayoral intervention, on the premature sending of an email confirming the planning officer’s recommendation.
The judgment establishes that a series of errors were made, with wider implications for the Mayor of London’s handling of planning applications. There is the matter of the weight that should be given to these mistakes – and the judge considered that each of these errors would not have made a difference to the take-over decision.
The Trust disagrees. It contends that the errors need to be considered in their totality, and their significance tested by the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal may consider that the errors go further…
- That the misunderstanding of the criteria which has been identified in respect of Crossrail point to mistakes in identifying economic impacts and effects.
- That significant impacts needed to be addressed across the London Plan as a whole and that the Mayor failed to do so.
- That, having told the developer what the recommendation would be before reading statutorily relevant material, officers then wrote a report which was relentlessly supportive of the recommendation, omitting any arguments that the first two statutory criteria were not met.
- That officers who proceed on the basis of ‘recommendation first, evidence second’ and who privately tell the developer what they will – not might – say cannot be relied upon when they misreport the contrary view and make substantive errors. The judge did not grapple with this ‘poisoning of the well’ issue.
Photograph of Joining Hands To Save Norton Folgate by Morley Von Sternberg
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