Local Challenge To 'Empire House' Development Fails In High Court
Campaigners vow to continue fight against high rise development despite 'disappointing' ruling
An attempt by a Chiswick resident to challenge the Lend Lease development of Empire House and Essex place has failed in the High Court.
Chiswick resident Simon Kverndal’s application for judicial review of Hounslow Council’s grant of planning permission for development of Empire House and the Essex Place site by Lend Lease was not granted by the Court today. He said they will now consider an appeal against the ruling.
The judge decided that each of the five grounds advanced by Kverndal was arguable, but then dismissed each of them.
Mr Kverndal and his supporters claimed that the decision by Hounslow Council to grant planning permission to the developers was unlawful because of the failure of Officers to properly consult and take into account and apply important local planning policies.
Simon Kverndal says: “The judgment is extremely disappointing. We feel the verdict fails to deal properly with the arguments. It seems as if both the Judge and the London Borough of Hounslow have a completely different approach to the rest of us, even as to what constitutes a high rise. We find the judge’s reasoning weak and at times baffling – which gives us a real chance on appeal.
“If the Council and the developers get away with this one then there will be nothing to stop them doing what they like in the future.
A spokesperson for Lendlease, said: "We can confirm that today’s judgement stated that Mr Kverndal’s claim failed on all grounds, and the right to appeal in the High Court has been refused. We are pleased with the outcome and look forward to delivering high-quality new homes and amenities to this part of Chiswick High Road. As with all our developments, this project is carefully designed to ensure it is of maximum benefit to both new and existing residents, and makes a truly positive contribution to the area. The Opus Collection will introduce new homes and improve the appearance of the existing 10-storey building. We are now concentrating on bringing these exciting plans to fruition with a mix of high-quality new homes, retail spaces and public realm."
However, Mr. Kverner said they may now consider an appeal: “We feel we have strong legal grounds for an appeal. With a full pipeline of further high-rise projects in the area, such as the 32-storey tower at Chiswick Roundabout, and at least one other high-rise currently on Chiswick High Road, it is essential that we continue the fight. The Council cannot ignore the clear letter of their own policies and planning law, as well as the wishes of the local population.”
“I call on all Chiswick residents to step forward and help defend our borough. Please help us by donating as generously as you can so we can appeal against this ill-considered development.”
The development not only adds two storeys and balconies to the Empire House office block on Chiswick High Road which becomes residential, but also adds 8-storey and 5-storey blocks either side of Empire House, on the car parks on Essex Place which will be visible and dominate from Turnham Green and the High Road.
Further funding will be necessary to enable the appeal to go ahead. Within the next two weeks, if the response for funding is positive, Kverndal will be able to launch an appeal. Residents of Chiswick – or elsewhere in London - are invited to contribute at www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/future-of-chiswick
The case was heard on 29/30 September by Mr Justice Supperstone. Lawyers for Simon Kverndal were Richard Buxton solicitors, Daniel Kolinsky QC and Luke Wilcox, counsel.
Local groups including Chiswick High Road Action Group, Friends of Turnham Green, West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society, and Acton Green Residents’ Association all supported Simon Kverndal in his legal challenge. All the local groups favour redevelopment of this site but are strongly opposed to the current proposals which are too high, too dense and inappropriate for the site.
Local residents raised over £20,000 through the crowdfunding site www.crowdjustice.co.uk for the initial case.
The challenge was based on the following:
- Height of buildings – Local policies are against tall buildings in this area and there is a long standing aspiration to get rid of Empire House.
- Employment – The local plan site designation for this site provided for mainly continued employment uses such as offices or hotel space.
- Heritage - The proposed development will cause irreparable harm to the Turnham Green Conservation area.
- Housing - The development seeks to get round Hounslow’s policies on affordable housing by claiming the right to develop Empire House with no affordable housing contribution and the remainder of the site with only a fraction of the 41% affordable housing target. The result is just 11% affordable housing. All this is based on claims as to viability of the project based on calculations that have not been disclosed.
- Consultation – Officers recommended approval of this development despite strong opposition from the overwhelming majority of respondents to consultation. There were comprehensive objections from residents, residents’ groups and Sainsbury’s who own the adjoining superstore and car park together with British Land. These were ignored. In a final blow, the Council refused to allow time to examine and respond to a substantial amount of important documentation put in at the last minute, well after the consultation period was over.
October 28, 2015