John Steel Q.C. and Victoria Hutton successful in gaining planning permission with a full award of costs for new sports and science facilities at Harrow School

Following a two week inquiry in April 2019, the Secretary of State has agreed with the decision of Planning Inspector Callum Parker to grant permission for new sports and science facilities at Harrow School. The Secretary of State has also adopted his Inspector's costs recommendation and has ordered a full award of costs against the Mayor of London on the basis that his direction to the London Borough of Harrow to refuse the scheme was unreasonable.

The Mayor's directed reason for refusal was concerned with the impact of the footprint and siting of the sports building upon Metropolitan Open Land ('MOL'), to which restrictions equivalent to the Green Belt apply. The Mayor also sought to advance a case that there was 'less than substantial harm' to heritage assets as a result of the sports building. At the inquiry the Mayor set out three alternatives which it argued were preferable to the proposal.

The Secretary of State held that the proposal amounted to inappropriate development in the MOL and that there would be additional harm through the erosion of openness (though not in visual impact terms). However, the Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that the material considerations in favour of the proposal amounted to very special circumstances clearly outweighing the harm to MOL. Those material considerations included: educational need, community need and use by the community of 22,000 hours, 1300 free hours to state maintained local schools and 400 further discounted hours' use to deserving groups, a lack of alternative sites, compliance with the SPD and heritage, landscape and biodiversity benefits.

The Secretary of state found some less than substantial heritage harm to the setting of heritage assets but that significant public benefits existed to outweigh that harm in line with paragraph 196 NPPF.

With regards to costs, the Secretary of State accepted the recommendation of his Inspector who had found that: (i) the Mayor acted unreasonably in significantly altering his position between Stage 1 (being broadly supportive) and Stage 2 (finding the scheme unacceptable) (ii) the Mayor's alternatives could not reasonably be taken into account as realistic or viable alternatives and (iii) the Mayor had failed to have regard to the duty under s66 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as part of his decision, had failed to apply national policy with regards to heritage and the Mayor's directed reason for refusal was unclear and did not include issues advanced by him at the Inquiry.

Please click here for the Secretary of State's Decision.