Legal Challenge to Earls Court Plans Dismissed

Council says massive redevelopment scheme is now "on track"

Residents of West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates have suffered another blow in their fight to save their homes from demolition with the latest legal challenge to the plans being dismissed in the High Court.

Residents sought to challenge decisions by Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to adopt the Earls Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area Joint Supplementary Planning Document, SPD.

The TRA’s chose to challenge the SPD on the following four highly technical grounds.

  • They claimed that the SPD was an Area Action Plan and as such a Development Plan Document (DPD). They argued that the council had therefore erred in law by failing to follow the statutory consultation and adoption process for a DPD.
  • They also said that the council acted unlawfully and irrationally in adopting a supplementary planning policy which was in conflict with adopted planning policy.
  • They also said that the council had unlawfully failed to consider the need to replace the social housing lost to the estates’ demolition in breach of the council’s core strategy
  • They also claimed that there had been multiple breaches of the SEA directive and Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (the SEA regulations).

All four grounds were dismissed by Mr Justice Keith Lindblom save to the extent that the Councils were ordered to prepare a statement, complying with the SEA regulations, setting out how environmental considerations were taken into account in the preparation of the SPD.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council says the decision means plans to inject £8billion of private investment into Earls Court and West Kensington, in one of the UK’s biggest regeneration projects since the Olympics, are now on track.

The council says the redevelopment of Earls Court and the surrounding area will create up to 9,500 new permanent jobs, with an additional 36,000 construction jobs during the build phase. It will also include 7,583 new homes, new shops, offices, leisure facilities, public open space, a new school, new transport links, healthcare centre and community centre on the 77 acre site in a community improvement package that totals £490 million.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, H&F Council Leader said: " This is the third legal challenge that has been dismissed since the turn of the year. We now want to put all our efforts into progressing this once-in-a-lifetime scheme so we can reap the huge rewards and bring major, life-changing improvements to Earls Court and the wider area.

" All qualifying tenants will be offered a brand new home, white goods, moving costs and support as well as a compensation package of £4,700. The legally binding contracts state that no tenant will move until their new home is ready to be occupied.

" All new homes will be provided in the area. All eligible home owners will receive 10% compensation on the independently-verified value of their home and the chance to buy back into the redevelopment with a 10% discount."

The decision and the council's statement has brought an angry response from MP Anday Slaughter, who says: "Contrary to the council/developer’s bluster the challenges to this monstrous scheme are just starting not finishing. The Tory council has committed three cardinal errors. Firstly, selling 23 acres of prime land to developer Capco for an undervalue: the district auditor has agreed to look into this at my request.

" Potentially hundreds of millions of pounds have been gifted from taxpayers to one of the biggest international developers in the council’s hurry to get on with its biggest social engineering project.

" Secondly, they are about to grant planning consent to the largest current development scheme in London which will disrupt the lives of thousands of my constituents who will have their homes demolished and replace affordable homes with ten times the number of luxury high-rise buy-to-leave-empty flats.

" They have ignored their own and the Mayor’s rules of providing affordable housing. There will be no new affordable rented homes on the site. They have failed to require the developer to share any future profits over the 20 years of the development against independent advice.

" And they are allowing the destruction of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres and vital railway workshops which employ 550 highly skilled personnel.

" Thirdly, they intend to proceed with the compulsory purchase of hundreds of homes, many occupied by the same families for 50 years. Elderly and vulnerable residents will be forced out to make way for private profit. This scheme will continue to be fought through the courts and at the local elections next May.

" We need a council that takes the side of residents, small business and local communities, not developers and City investors."

October 11, 2013