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Court hears challenge to ministerial failure to give reasons for not calling in scheme

The High Court has this week heard a judicial review challenge over the Communities Secretary’s refusal to call in the ‘Paddington Cube’ proposals.

In December 2016, Westminster City Council’s Planning Committee granted planning permission for the project, a 19-storey, 54m-office tower proposal, adjacent to the Grade I listed Paddington Station and within the Bayswater Conservation Area.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has brought the legal challenge, principally on the basis of the minister’s refusal to give reasons for his decision.

Sajid Javid refused to call in the scheme in March 2017, despite being asked to do so by SAVE, the Victorian Society and the Imperial College NHS Trust.

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SAVE raised more than £2,500 via Crowd Justice towards the legal costs of the case.

The conservation charity said: “This challenge has potentially wide-reaching implications - it goes to the heart of transparent and accountable government decision making. SAVE considers ministerial decisions must stand up to robust scrutiny - the duty of government to give reasons for decisions is relevant to anyone involved with the planning system.”

Richard Harwood QC of 39 Essex Chambers appeared for SAVE, instructed by Susan Ring of Harrison Grant Solicitors.

In September 2017, the Imperial College NHS Trust issued its own separate judicial review challenge seeking to quash the planning permission.

“This is based on major concerns about blue light emergency access to the hospital if the plans are implemented in their current form,” SAVE said.

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage said: “SAVE is fighting this challenge in the High Court, not only because we believe the Paddington Cube demolition proposals rip up so-called Conservation Area protection written into legislation, but because this case highlights an important principle in accountable government and transparent decision making. What does the government have to hide?”

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