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Council defeats challenge to new social housing development

The London Borough of Lewisham has defeated a High Court challenge to its decision to give planning consent for 110 social homes.

Sydenham Hill Residents Steering Group had objected to the loss of open space and to what it saw as overdevelopment with a former sheltered housing block Mais House due to be demolished as part of the project.

Mr Justice Fordham dismissed a challenge for judicial review of the planning consent.

FTB Chambers, which acted for Lewisham, noted this was the second time planning permission had been granted.

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The first grant of planning permission was quashed by Lang J in R (Kinsey) v London Borough of Lewisham [2021] EWHC 1286 (Admin) but was remitted to Lewisham to reconsider, which gave permission a second time in June 2021.

Objectors put four grounds of challenge to Fordham J.

They said Lewisham had misunderstood policy, had no evidence and acted unreasonably in asserting that the scheme was the ‘optimum viable use’, and a smaller scheme the objectors might have accepted was not viable.

In a second ground, they argued that Lewisham acted unreasonably, in breach of the Statement of Community Involvement, by publishing a large volume of material shortly before the relevant committee meeting with which its still proceeded.

Other grounds argued were that Lewisham failed to publish third party consultation responses and failed to have regard to critical representations made by the London Wildlife Trust, which manages the adjacent Sydenham Hill Woods local nature reserve.

Fordham J allowed permission for judicial review on the first ground and on the issue of the large volume of material being published late, but he did not accept the other grounds and dismissed the claim.

On the first ground, Fordham J held that despite “stray wording” in the conclusion section of the officer’s report, when read fairly and as a whole it was not misleading.

He found common law requirements of procedural fairness still applied, but in this case there was no common law unfairness caused by Lewisham dealing rapidly with the second grant of planning consent.

The Friends of Mais House had crowd funded the case, raising £60,190 from donations though a Crown Justice page.

Mark Smulian

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