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Court of Appeal quashes permission for hydro-electric station on Thames

A council must pay a local hotel owner £55,000 in costs after losing a judicial review over construction of a hydro-electric station.

The London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames had given permission for the installation at Teddington Lock, where it would have replaced a section of a weir, with a plant room built above the three turbines.

Hotelier Lensbury, whose hotel overlooks the weir, was initially unsuccessful in its judicial review. But the Court of Appeal found in its favour in Lensbury Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v Richmond-Upon-Thames London Borough Council [2016] EWCA Civ 814 and quashed planning permission.

Sales LJ said the appeal turned on whether Richmond’s policy on protection of metropolitan open land (MOL) imposed the same protections as those afforded to green belt.

He said : “The council failed to appreciate that the planning application was for development which was inappropriate in the context of MOL and therefore failed to ask itself the critical question, whether ‘very special circumstances’ existed which justified the grant of planning permission.

“Once the correct interpretation of [the] policy is identified as set out above, it can be seen that as a matter of substance the council has gone badly wrong in its consideration of the planning merits of the application for development in this case.

“It failed to identify the development as inappropriate development in an area of MOL requiring the strongest protection against such development. It failed to consider whether, notwithstanding the inappropriateness of the development, ‘very special circumstances’ exist to justify the grant of planning permission, and it is far from obvious that they do.”

The judge allowed Lensbury costs as he did “not think that it can be said that it is highly likely that the outcome for the appellant would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred”.

A Richmond spokesperson said: “Having spent a great deal of time ensuring the plans for Ham Hydro met all local requirements, we are disappointed that it is has been rejected on a technical legal point. 

“We have yet to have any discussions with Ham Hydro, but will consider the options in due course. We have through the court agreed to pay £55k towards Lensbury’s costs.”

Mark Smulian

           

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