The High Court has ruled that a conservation officer’s advice was inadequately reported to planning committee members and a design review panel should have been convened to consider a planning application for a residential redevelopment at the Sydenham Hill Estate, London. Mrs Justice Lang quashed the permission in R(Kinsey) v London Borough of Lewisham handed down on 18th May.
The proposed four, six and seven storey high building would be adjacent to Lammas Green housing development, a 1950s set of terraces and community hall, listed at grade II. The committee report acknowledged that the scheme would cause less than substantial harm to the listed buildings and conservation area. The report had incorporated most of the conservation officer’s consultation response in its assessment, but had omitted her views on the level of harm within less than substantial (“moderate to high degree of less than substantial harm” to the conservation area; “moderate degree” to the listed buildings) replacing it with ‘a degree of harm’. Failing to report these downplayed the level of harm. The report also omitted to record that she had objected. This reporting was inadequate. Additionally the planning officer had failed to apply significant weight to the heritage harm when carrying out the balancing exercise.
The Council had declined to provide the conservation officer’s response to the public when the application was being considered. The Court held that it should have been disclosed as a background paper under the Local Government Act 1972, s 100D. Lang J rejected the argument that the response was not a background paper because it was produced by the same council department as the final report.
Additionally the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement had promised that applications of this nature would be considered by the Council’s Design Review Panel. The Panel had considered the schemes at pre-application stage, but still found a fundamental problem with the last pre-application proposal. They were not consulted on the submitted (and reduced) application. This was a breach of the legitimate expectation created by the SCI.
Richard Harwood QC appeared for Helen Kinsey, instructed by Susan Ring of Harrison Grant.
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