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London borough fails in judicial review challenge over decision by mayor to grant permission for 11-storey tower

Hillingdon Council has lost an attempt in the High Court to challenge a decision by London mayor Sadiq Khan to allow a tower block to be built in the borough.

In London Borough of Hillingdon, R (On the Application Of) v Mayor of London [2021] EWHC 3387 (Admin) Mrs Justice Lang said the only ground on which Hillingdon partially succeeded was the mayor’s failure to disclose a technical note to it.

But she refused relief under section 31(2A) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 “as it appears to me to be highly likely that the outcome…would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred”.

The dispute concerned the former Master Brewer Motel site where developer IP Inland wanted to build an 11-storey tower for mixed uses.

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Hillingdon refused planning permission on grounds of height after an officer’s report said the plan would be contrary to local policies and to the to London Plan 2016  and draft London Plan.

Officers of the Greater London Authority though advised Hillingdon to grant the application finding that the project did in fact conform with the London plan.

The application then went to Mr Khan, who declined to hold a further representation hearing, and gave it permission.

Lang J said Hillingdon’s interpretation of the London plan policy on tall buildings “cannot be correct”.

The judge noted there had been at least three decisions, both prior to and since the this case, in which Hillingdon planners had interpreted the tall buildings policy in the same way the mayor had.

She said the mayor has concluded the scheme accorded with the provisions of the development plan when read as a whole, which was a planning judgment, based on the benefits of the proposal, such as the contribution of housing, in particular affordable housing and that the brownfield site had good transport links.

The judge said there was ample evidence that GLA officers and the Mayor paid sufficient regard to the air quality issues, including those Hillingdon raised.

She said fairness did not require another oral hearing and Hillingdon had been able to make submissions.

The borough should have been shown the technical note on air quality but it introduced nothing new and so she declined to grant relief.

Mark Smulian

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