A London council has successfully defended a High Court challenge to its decision to grant Queen’s Park Rangers planning permission for the redevelopment of a sports ground for its training academy.
The Hanwell Community Forum, which is part of the Save Warren Farm campaign, had also sought to attack the London Borough of Ealing’s grant of a 200-year lease to the football club.
A range of grounds of challenge were advanced, including conflicts of interest, a failure to get permission from the Secretary of State for disposal of the land, and inappropriate development of metropolitan open land. The campaigners argued as well that the council had “seriously undervalued” the site.
But Mr Justice Ouseley yesterday dismissed the judicial review challenge, concluding that Ealing had not acted unlawfully.
A spokeswoman for Ealing said: “We are very pleased that a High Court judge has upheld the court’s original decision to reject an application for a judicial review of the council’s decision relating to Warren Farm sports ground. The judge rejected all claims against the council and confirmed that we acted appropriately in granting Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club (QPR FC) planning permission and a lease of the site.
“QPR is investing millions of pounds into community facilities and a comprehensive community sports programme, which will significantly improve local people’s access to sport. We look forward to seeing this project get off the ground so that people can start using it as quickly as possible.”
Carolyn Brown, Chair of Hanwell Community Forum, described the High Court judge’s ruling as “deeply disappointing, although not at all surprising”.
She claimed: “On the surface of it, the council appears to have done everything that they needed to do in the process. However, consulting residents in only one ward, when the impact of the loss of these community playing fields will affect the whole borough, and holding key meetings before and immediately after the Christmas period, and during the August holiday period, were all actions that helped to ensure that it was as difficult as possible for the community to challenge the council effectively. And they have acted as both judge and jury when scrutinising their own decision-making.”
Rheian Davies of DH Law, solicitors for Hanwell Community Forum, said: “Thankfully Mr Justice Ouseley noted the controversy that this council decision has caused amongst the community and recognised that this was an important environmental case, brought by a community group. As such he gave us cost protection, and awarded only the very limited costs capped at £5,000 to Ealing Council and QPR together.
“This means that it will not be too expensive in future to scrutinise the decisions the council makes in such cases and we can continue to bring local authorities to account before the courts.”
The Forum said the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats had vowed to stop the development going ahead, should they win power at elections later this month (22 May).