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High Court judge quashes selective licensing scheme over consultation failings

The High Court has quashed a selective licensing scheme that Enfield Council was seeking to apply to the entire borough.

In R (Regas) v LB Enfield [2014] EWHC 4173 His Honour Judge McKenna ruled that the local authority had failed to consult those outside the area who were likely to be affected.

The judge also ruled that Enfield had failed to consult for a sufficiently long period.

HHJ McKenna refused the council permission to appeal, but Enfield has since confirmed its intention to apply to the Court of Appeal.

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The case was brought by Constantinos Regas, who is landlord of one property in the borough.

Regas said: "I have always maintained my view that good housing standards are a human right. But Enfield Council have not gone about this the right way. They have accused tenants of being antisocial and have sought to criminalise landlords for tenants' behaviour. The council have now been found acting unlawfully.”

The claimant was represented by Jonathan Manning and Justin Bates, both of Arden Chambers.

Enfield's Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate Renewal, Cllr Ahmet Oykener, described the judgment as “disappointing” and said the authority disagreed with the rulings.

“It finds technical flaws with the consultation process which informed the scheme - which do not tally with the facts,” he argued. 

“The judge has ruled that the consultation mainly focused on gathering the views of local Enfield people rather than people living in neighbouring boroughs. While we make no apologies for putting the views of the people we represent at the heart of our consultation activity, we find this ruling surprising as we extended the consultation outside the boundaries of the borough.”

Cllr Oykener said the judge had also ruled that the council did not formally consult over a 10-week period (the minimum required).

“We actually ran the consultation over a 12-week period – two weeks longer than recommended. The extent and the length of the consultation activity we undertook was informed by expert, external legal opinion,” he continued. 

“Furthermore, the judgment does not find fault with the licensing scheme or challenge the evidence-based report upon which the decision to implement this scheme was taken – which Justice Ouseley has previously described as ‘detailed and careful’.”

Cllr Oykener said the council would therefore request leave to appeal against the decision.

He added: “Despite the technical points raised by the judge the court recognised that 84% of Enfield’s residents and a majority of Enfield’s businesses who responded to the consultation strongly agreed with the decision to introduce the scheme.

“We will continue to stand-up for the views and interests of Enfield’s residents and remain committed to introducing a scheme that many residents are waiting to be implemented”.

Enfield already operates a mandatory Houses in Multiple Occupation licensing scheme.

An analysis of the case will be published on Local Government Lawyer next week.

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