The High Court challenge by U+I and the London Fire Brigade against the Secretary of State’s decision to REFUSE planning permission at 8 Albert Embankment has FAILED.
The Honourable Mrs Justice Lieven at the High Court refused the challenge, and awarded costs against U+I/ London Fire Brigade.
ORDER by the Honourable Mrs Justice Lieven
In her order (attached), with reference to the decision regarding the impacts on heritage assets (ie London Fire Brigade HQ, Lambeth Palace, Houses of Parliament etc), she said:
‘This ground of challenge exemplifies the worst of turning a planning decision into a legal obstacle course.’
U+I and the London Fire Brigade had 7 days (from 27th October) to decide whether to continue to pursue legal action. That time has passed and the silence has been deafening!
The government legal team did not receive papers (from U+I and London Fire Brigade) to continue legal proceedings instead U+I & LFB contacted to pay costs to the government for their wasted resources.
This is the end of this planning application and it’s skyscrapers, but of course what follows next must be better. Everyone’s ideas and views on this are very welcome.
On 4th August 2021 U+I submitted a claim for proceedings under s288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the Secretary of State’s decision to REFUSE planning permission for 8 Albert Embankment.
U+I and London Fire Brigade continue to be intent on pursuing their ‘departure’ from planning policy application with it’s 3 towers over 30m and 2 skyscrapers at @90m, putting 400+ local residents below national BRE daylight standards and causing great damage to local, national and world heritage.
Is this a Judicial Review?
No, it is not a JR (Judicial Review). It is a statutory challenge under section 288 of the 1990 Planning Act to the High Court, arguing that certain legal aspects of the cases have not been properly considered and/or decided by the Secretary of State.
Will the court look at the planning merits of the decisions?
No. The court can only look at the strict legal aspects of the cases. For example, did the Secretary of State legally carry out the process correctly when he assessed the planning balance on heritage matters? The Judge will not be able to consider the planning merits.
How successful are challenges?
In 2017, for example, there were 192 challenges, only 14 of which succeeded and 24 failed (38 in total). The remaining cases (154) never even made it to a full hearing as the court decided at the initial review stage that they were of no merit and should not even be considered.
What will happen if U+I succeeds?
The Judge can only remit (send back) the decision to the Secretary of State to decide it again. The Secretary of State will then have to correct any legal concerns.
Why is U+I challenging?
Quite probably U+I is under an obligation in their contract with the London Fire Brigade to pursue the planning permission to the bitter end – which is a statutory challenge. This is the second time that the London Fire Brigade has failed to get permission having gone through a public inquiry, a failure that will require investigation.
How long will it take?
Anywhere between 6 months (if the court rules the challenge has no merit) to 18 months for a full hearing and judgement.
Who pays the costs of the challenge?
Automatically, it is the loser(s).
Lambeth Village remains confident that this ‘departure’ from policy planning application which is so clearly out of character with the local area, causes major adverse daylight impacts on social housing residents and with consequences for world heritage is unlikely to succeed.
We had hoped in September to start working with the London Fire Brigade and other local stakeholders towards a new and better plan for these sites.
We had hoped no further public money would be spent pursuing a ‘departure’ from policy planning application.
Yesterday at 3pm on 23rd June 2021 the Secretary of State the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick issued the following decision notice on the planning application by U+I and the London Fire Brigade, for a development at the Brigade’s historic HQ at 8 Albert Embankment.
The Secretary of State has agreed with his planning inspectorate report and has REFUSED planning permission.
Christopher Woodward of the Garden Museum whose Lambeth Green plans would have been affected by shadowing from the proposal – which included 5 towers in total, 2 of which would overshadow Old Paradise Gardens and residents of the Whitgift Council Estate said:
‘We are thrilled that we can continue with our plans to make a new park for central London without it being overshadowed by the dead glass of skyscrapers of luxury flats.
‘But the greatest relief is for our neighbours in social housing, who would have lost over 40 per cent of the sunshine at their windows if U+I had been able to build its towers.’
‘This is the second public inquiry the GLA has lost for the site, which has been left derelict for over a decade. We all want the site to be developed. Can the GLA please invite ideas for other uses, which does not deprive a community of one of the most basic of human needs – sunshine.’
See today’s article in Architects Journal:
Michael Ball from Waterloo Community Development Group, who represented Lambeth Village at the public inquiry says:
‘Fantastic community effort, from every political party and none; businesses, residents & many stakeholders. We won all the main points: threat to daylight, heritage, the democratically agreed Plan. Lambeth Council needs to take more care protecting us.’
‘The LFB has left these sites largely vacant for nearly 20 years, benefiting no one other than speculators. Two madcap proposals have wasted millions of pounds of public money, and have terrorised the local community for the past decade.’
‘It’s time that Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, called a halt. He needs to instruct the LFB to bring these sites back into use immediately for ‘meanwhile’ uses, then work with the local community to develop a scheme which will benefit everybody.’
Helen Perrault-Newby from the Whitgift Estate TRA says:
The Observer has published an article on the threat caused by towers to daylight, essential for health and wellbeing.
It features local resident Mohamed whose loses (if the development at 8 Albert Embankment goes ahead), are benchmarked by the BRE as ‘major adverse’ impact.
See Observer article here
The Telegraph has just published an article on London daylight which highlights 8 Albert Embankment and has the following great quotes from George Turner, who appeared at the public inquiry in December 2020 as an interested party.
“The links between daylight and both physical and mental health are very well established,”
“After a year of being locked down in our homes, I think we can all appreciate the importance of having access to adequate daylight.”
“Daylight standards do not stop new development, they stop bad development. There is no reason why competent architects can’t design new buildings that protect the living conditions of neighbours.”
Who could disagree with this?
Private Eye published an article on 19th February on the threat of multiple tall tower schemes looming over south London and all of them are in Lambeth!
The article notes that the refusal of the Woodlands proposal (fought by community group ‘Stop the Blocks’) by the Planning Inspectorate has given hope to other cases such as 8 Albert Embankment and the Hondo Tower in Brixton.
On 8 Albert Embankment the article says:
….people in Lambeth await a decision on the former London Fire Brigade (LFB) HQ, 8 Albert Embankment, where a potentially splendid restoration of the grade II listed art deco riverside building is sadly accompanied by two grotesque towers of 26 and 24 storeys …..The site is just across the Thames from the UNESCO world heritage Westminster site and close to grade 1 listed Lambeth Palace.
You will find the above on P23 of Private Eye Issue No. 1541, 19th February – 4th March 2021 – on sale now!
U+I the London Fire Brigade’s development partner for the redevelopment of their previous HQ at 8 Albert Embankment is in the process of …………..major budget cuts, substantial down-sizing, selling off assets ….
This is in the Architect’s Journal:
Full details in the Regulatory Statement and presentation to investors on the company website:
Mid-year £50.2 million loss before tax.
Suspension of interim dividend.
Accelerated disposals programme to generate cash and pay down debt; target to deliver proceeds of about.£50 million in financial year 2021 and in excess of £80 million in financial year 2022 by reducing the number of development, trading and investment portfolio assets.
Overhead cost reduction programme implemented: This accelerated cost saving programme is designed to reduce gross recurring overheads by 43% over a 3 year period. It includes a 41% reduction in staff headcount and a proposed relocation to a smaller London office.
The Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial and Operating Officer are both leaving the company in 2021. The Development Director (Joanna Axon) leading on 8 Albert Embankment has already left the company.
A 100-day review of all existing assets is underway. An updated strategy, including a disposal strategy for mature or underperforming assets, is to be presented on 26 May 2021, to accompany the interim results for the financial year 2021.
Thanks to the generous donations of all sizes from members of the Lambeth Village community and it’s supporters the community was represented at the Public Inquiry into 8 Albert Embankment by:
The inquiry started on Tuesday 1st December and ended on Friday 18th December 2020. It looked at the proposed design, heritage impacts on the London Fire Brigade art deco HQ complex, the other local heritage assets including Lambeth Palace, the impacts on the Westminster World Heritage Site, the sun and daylight of local residents, the impacts on amenities and issues such as transport, provision of affordable housing and the use of industrial land.
You can watch the final day of summing up here
You can watch all of the sessions here
You can see and hear member of the community speaking on Thursday 10th December here
You can see all of the ‘core documents’ via the Lambeth web page for the inquiry here
It will be several weeks possibly longer before we know the recommendation of the Planning Inspector and the decision of the Secretary of State. Ultimately this is a decision for the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP to take and will depend on the weight given to the perceived benefits and harms that would result from the proposed development.
Want more information? …contact email@example.com
Lambeth Village, Beaconsfield Gallery and the Garden Museum all have Rule 6 Status at the public inquiry into the planning application for 8 Albert Embankment.
We are acting together to win against both the developer U+I and Lambeth Council. Both are engaging their own Queen’s Counsel (QC) Barristers and between them 13 expert witnesses to argue for this development and against the community campaign.
Fight for what is right – please donate to our fund here
Local people called on the Secretary of State Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP to call in the planning application for 8 Albert Embankment – to give it the proper scrutiny of a public inquiry.
Today we can announce that he has heard the call, done the right thing – called it in!
Michael Ball of the Waterloo Community Development Group says: “It is criminal that these central London sites have been left mostly vacant for 20 years in public ownership, yet all successive Mayors can do is back schemes helicoptered in and completely out-of-scale or context, and of little use to London or Londoners, in order to try and make big bucks like the most rapacious of developers.
“Real people living in real social housing will lose up to 40 per cent of their daylight, because of safety-deposit boxes posing as housing piled 90 metres high beside them.”
Helen Perrault-Newby of the Whitgift Estate Tenants and Residents Association says:
“Social Housing tenants on our estate are to be condemned to live without adequate daylight so the London Mayor can make the biggest fat profit, by not following the planning policy design principles for this site. THIS IS WRONG.
It’s a fact, those impacted most are black people, pandemic key workers, children and disabled residents. It’s time for some respect.”
Paul Ettlinger of the 9 Albert Embankment Residents Association says:
“This development totally disregards the heritage of a site with 2 grade 2 listed buildings, the only ones surviving from the 1930s on the South Bank and in the setting of Lambeth Palace and the Westminster World Heritage Site.
Even the London Mayors officers raised concern at the desecration of 8 Albert Embankment, the London Fire Brigade HQ with a double height glass roof extension and wrap around hotel with some 200 rooms.
This is a heritage site and Lambeth’s own local policy dictates it should be protected, yet this planning application was agreed by the borough on the casting vote of it’s Chair of Planning. Fortunately the Secretary of State Rt Hon Robert Jenrick has seen fit to call the application in citing heritage grounds as one of the primary reasons.”
From our local councillors blog here
As ward councillors we have been determined to oppose this development believing it to be out of scale for the site. It will now be subject to a public enquiry. We support having an enquiry and will be giving evidence.