A High Court judge has rejected an application for judicial review of Ealing Council’s decision to grant Queen’s Park Rangers planning permission for the redevelopment of a sports ground and to give the football club a 200-year lease.
Following Mr Justice Lewis’ decision on the papers, the Hanwell Community Forum, the claimant, has a week in which to seek an oral hearing.
The local authority granted planning permission to the Championship football club on 20 December 2013. QPR intends to redevelop a significant section of the Warren Farm site as a training and academy headquarters. There would still be football pitches and cricket pitches for community sport in the remaining area.
The Hanwell Community Forum had called on Ealing in a letter before action to revoke the planning decision and rescind the lease.
It sought to argue that:
- The council had fettered the exercise of its discretion under s. 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 “having predetermined the development to be permitted on [its] land, and the circumstances in granting planning permission and completing the development agreement on 20 December 2013 gives rise to the inference of bias”;
- “Given the material and significant differences between development envisaged and approved, in the absence of approval by the Cabinet following the consultation exercise under s. 123 of the Local Government Act 1972, the Executive Director of Environment and Customer Services acted outwith his delegation by approving the disposal of Warren Farm and the council subsequently granting planning permission and completing the development agreement”. In all the circumstances the Executive Director of Environment and Customer Services did not have the authority to complete the development agreement for the disposal of Warren Farm to QPR and unlawfully both the development agreement and planning permission were issued;
- The Executive Director unlawfully completed the development agreement on 20 December following his private consideration of the objections received under s. 123(2A) of the 1972 Act. “Having received objections to the proposed disposal of Warren Farm, which is ‘open space’ for the purposes of the Act, the council’s Executive Director acted without authority in considering and dismissing the objections without referring objections to the Officers Key Decision meeting.” The director was not authorised to make the decision in private, it was argued, and the council’s disposal of Warren Farm was in breach of s. 123 “as the objections were not lawfully considered by officers approved to make key decisions”.
However, Mr Justice Lewis rejected the application and awarded QPR £5,000 in costs. The judge also confirmed that Ealing had acted appropriately in granting the planning permission, the council said.
Cllr Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing, said: “We are pleased with the High Court’s decision to reject the application for a judicial review and, with QPR set to invest millions of pounds into the community sports facilities, I’m confident we’ve secured the best deal for local people.”
Carolyn Brown, chair of the Hanwell Community Forum, said its legal team had been briefed to prepare the grounds to apply for an oral hearing.
"We had almost expected to be rejected at the 'first sift' as there is so much downward pressure from the Government to reduce the number of judicial reviews of local government decisions," she added. "We strongly believe that we have a good case, so we are fighting on."