Press release: SAVE to challenge Secretary of State at Court of Appeal over Paddington Cube on 13 September 2018

Press release: SAVE to challenge Secretary of State at Court of Appeal over Paddington Cube on 13 September 2018


10 September 2018
SAVE Britain's Heritage’s legal challenge to the Secretary of State James Brokenshire regarding the highly controversial 19 storey office block will be heard at the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 13 September 2018.
The case focuses on the refusal to give reasons for not calling in the development which includes the demolition of the handsome red brick 1907 former Royal Mail sorting office within the Bayswater Conservation Area.

Our legal action is focused on the government’s failure to follow published policy announced in Parliament that reasons would be given for decisions not to call in major planning decisions for public inquiry. We believe this case goes to the heart of open and accountable decision making and needs robust scrutiny.

In granting SAVE leave to bring proceedings to the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said: "The question whether the Secretary of State may adopt a policy which does not conform with his published policy is an important one, and this ground of appeal has a real prospect of success.”
The case was originally set for 19 July 2018, but was postponed by the Court of Appeal to 13 September 2018. Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, central London. The exact time and Lord/Lady Justices hearing the appeal will be released later this week – at the latest the day before the hearing.

Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “Call-in for major schemes is an important safeguard within the planning process and giving reasons for decisions can only improve understanding of public decision making. This is particularly important in cases involving major demolition and contentious development. We look forward to our case being heard on Thursday.”
Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: "Local councils are under increasing pressure to approve damaging development proposals. The ability of the Secretary of State to hold a public inquiry under an independent planning inspector is a vital safeguard, allowing contentious cases and issues to be examined and assessed in an open and public forum. An essential part of this process is that the Secretary of State gives reasons when he declines to hold an inquiry. This was established policy, announced through Parliament but was changed by civil servants without any announcement and even more surprisingly without telling ministers."  

SAVE, the Victorian Society and the Imperial College NHS Trust which operates nearby St Mary's Hospital each asked the Secretary of State to call-in the planning application for an independent public inquiry. 

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who was then Sajid Javid turned down those requests in March 2017 and did not give any reasons for his decision, despite published policy announced in Parliament in 2001.

SAVE initially launched a Judicial Review to challenge the Secretary of State’s failure to give reasons. This was refused in November 2017, and we then applied for permission to proceed to the Court of Appeal.

The Royal Mail sorting office, June 2018 (image: SAVE Britain's Heritage)

In SAVE’s view, the highly controversial Paddington Cube proposal was badly handled through the planning process for the following reasons:
- The well-publicised involvement of Cllr Robert Davies as chair of the planning committee and his media comments in support of the scheme prior to submission to the local planning authority,
- By allowing the demolition of the fine Edwardian former Royal Mail sorting office, and its replacement with a 19 storey tower in a Conservation Area, this proposal sets a dangerous precedent. It sends out the message that Westminster is abandoning its once exemplary conservation and design policies.
- The concerns from neighbouring St Mary's Hospital regarding ambulance access as a result of the scheme which were ignored in reaching the decision to grant planning permission, and
- The Secretary of State's refusal to give reasons for his decision not to call a public inquiry.

Since SAVE's judicial review case in the High Court in November 2017, the case law on this issue has been dramatically changed by a Supreme Court judgement on a case brought by CPRE against Dover Council.

CPRE Kent won a landmark victory at the Supreme Court in December 2017, which overturned the decision by Dover District Council to grant planning permission for 521 houses and a retirement village in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe. 

The Supreme Court agreed with CPRE Kent’s arguments that the Planning Committee at Dover District Council did not give legally adequate reasons for granting planning permission, which they acknowledged would cause significant harm in a protected landscape.

Planning permission for the demolition of the historic former Royal Mail Sorting Office, the site of the Paddington Cube, was granted by Westminster City Council in August 2017.

Note to Editors
For additional images and information please contact SAVE on 0207 253 3500 or by email: