Press release: SAVE response to Paddington Cube legal challenge

29 November 2017

Press release: SAVE response to Paddington Cube legal challenge

The High Court has today dismissed the legal action by SAVE Britain's Heritage challenging the Secretary of State over his refusal to call in the Paddington Cube proposals for public inquiry. SAVE’s challenge focuses on the government’s refusal to give reasons for the decision not to call-in the highly controversial west London proposals.

SAVE is considering its options, including seeking leave to appeal, by which the battle can continue. The proposal is also subject to a separate application for Judicial Review from the Imperial College Hospital Trust, which runs the neighbouring St Mary’s Hospital. This is on the grounds that the Cube will cause serious disruption to the ambulance route.

Acting for SAVE, Richard Harwood QC pointed out that Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) practice of not giving reasons for the refusal of a call-in was in breach of published policy announced in Parliament in 2001.

He also stated that the ability of the Secretary of State to call-in major schemes was an important safeguard within the planning process and that a duty to give reasons would improve the understanding of public decision making. This was, he argued, particularly important as the proposals – involving major demolition and contentious development – conflicted with the statutory duty to preserve or enhance the conservation area and setting of listing buildings.

DCLG conceded that they had fought an earlier case on the failure to give reasons, unaware of the published policy that reasons would be given, and in that case had made submissions on an inadvertently false basis. SAVE’s lawyers established that DCLG officials decided to change practice in ignorance of policy which is not lawful. However, in the judgment handed down today, Mrs Justice Lang DBE dismissed the case.

Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE Britain's Heritage said: “SAVE is disappointed by this judgment which we believe sends out a very negative message about open and accountable decision making at the very highest levels of government. We continue to believe that ministerial decisions must stand up to robust scrutiny. We are now considering our legal options.”

Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE Britain’s Heritage said: “In this case, scandalously, a published policy to give reasons, announced to Parliament, has been overlooked and seemingly changed by civil servants without informing ministers. The Judge concluded that as decisions have been made on this basis since 2014, it can now be considered established policy. It is further remarkable that Government officials only explained the change of policy in a late witness statement. SAVE is giving serious consideration to the grounds for appeal to the Court of Appeal provided by our lawyers."

The ‘Paddington Cube’ scheme, granted full planning permission by Westminster City Council in August 2017, would see the demolition of a handsome former Edwardian Royal Mail sorting office replaced by a 19-storey office block in the Bayswater Conservation Area, right next to Brunel’s grade I listed Paddington Station.

SAVE, the Victorian Society and the Imperial College NHS Trust which operates nearby St Mary's Paddington each asked the Secretary of State to call-in the application for an independent public inquiry. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid turned down those requests in March 2017 and did not give any reasons for his decision. The Judicial Review challenged his failure to give reasons for his decision.

SAVE considers that the massive scale of the proposed square office tower would be a blot on the capital, substantially imposing itself over its immediate neighbours and entirely alien to its surroundings - a Conservation Area defined by handsome stucco terraces and Georgian and Victorian buildings of up to six storeys. This proposal sets a dangerous precedent, and sends out the message that Westminster is abandoning once exemplary conservation and design policies.

For more information contact SAVE on 0207 253 3500 or 

Notes to editors 

1. SAVE Britain’s Heritage is represented by Richard Harwood QC, and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant Solicitors.

2. In December 2016, Westminster City Council’s Planning Committee approved proposals for the Paddington Cube, despite the unanimous acknowledgment that the plans would cause harm to the Conservation Area. Strong objections were submitted from SAVE, Historic England, The Victorian Society, and local residents, which were ignored. Historic England described the proposal as being, ‘fundamentally at odds with the prevailing character of...the conservation area’, and considered it would have a, 'major harmful impact'.

3. The former Royal Mail sorting office, built in 1907, has a major presence beside Brunel's great Grade I listed station, with handsome Edwardian Baroque detailing, and makes a positive contribution to the Conservation Area. Demolition would cause substantial harm to the Bayswater Conservation Area and the setting of surrounding listed buildings.

4. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.

Press release issued by SAVE Britain’s Heritage
70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ
Registered Charity 269129
Tel. 020 7253 3500  Email
Follow SAVE on Twitter: @SAVEBrit