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Judge rules challenge to grant of planning permission by City of London Corporation for new court building and police HQ out of time

The High Court has rejected a claim by campaign group Save Britain's Heritage (SBH) to a planning decision by the City of London Corporation as being both out of time and unfounded.

The corporation, as the local planning authority, had awarded itself permission for the demolition of six buildings and the erection of three new ones including a court building and a police headquarters.

SBH objected that important architecture would be lost and Historic England had identified a high level of harm.

The former sought to take legal action on the grounds that there had been a failure to advise the Planning Committee of the “great weight” to be given to the comments of Historic England as a statutory consultee and that officers failed to conduct a lawful weighing of the harms and benefit associated with the demolition of two of the buildings, 8 Salisbury Court and 1 Salisbury Square.

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Mr Justice Eyre said Jay J had refused permission on papers because SBH made its claim out of time, the essence of Historic England's objections had been captured in the officers’ report and the second ground was “merely an attempt to assail the planning merits and he concluded that, in reality, it stood or fell with ground 1.”

Eyre J said he had to decide whether the claim was commenced in time and if not whether he should give an extension.

But in Save Britain's Heritage, R (On the Application Of) v City of London Corporation [2021] EWHC 3561 (Admin) he rejected SBH’s argument that where the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations apply the time for any challenge runs from the date when the consultees were informed of the decision even if the only challenge is wholly unrelated to the regulations.

He said: “There is no authority in support of that proposition which, in my judgement, goes beyond what Sir Richard Buxton said in Berky and is contrary to the obiter views of the majority in that case.”

Eyre J added: “The fact that the application here and the treatment of it were subject to requirements under the EIA Regulations does not certainly in the absence of a challenge based on those regulations alter the time limits that apply.”

He refused to give any extension as “no evidence at all has been put forward explaining why the application is not made in time or why it was not possible for it to be brought within time nor is there any of the kind of material which one would often expect to see explaining what had happened; explaining and apologising for the delay; or the like”.

The judge said: “I simply decline to extend time no proper basis for the extension sought having been advanced at all.

Although ruled out of time the judge briefly addressed the two grounds argued.

He said the absence of an express reference to the need to give great weight to Historic England's consultation response “is not, of itself, a public law failing and could not, of itself, form the basis for a challenge to the decision”. The second ground covered a matter of planning judgement for the corporation.

Mark Smulian

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