'Empire House' Challenge Before High Court
Judge will now decide whether judicial review will go ahead
The challenge brought by local resident Simon Kverndal QC against the Lend Lease development of Empire House and Essex place went before a High Court judge last week (Sept 29). A decision is expected in about two weeks following representations on behalf of all sides in the case.
Mr Kverndal and his supporters claim that the decision to allow the Lend Lease project planning permission was unlawful because of the failure of Hounslow Council Planning Officers to properly consult, and their failure to take into account and apply important local planning policies.
This was the second hearing of the application for judicial which was postponed from earlier in the summer due to the complexity of the case.
Mr Kverndal thanked his supporters for raising a sum of £20,000 towards taking the case, though the process had been more drawn out and costly than expected and he regretted that there was currently a funding gap.
He said their case was presented and argued with outstanding advocacy by counsel, Dan Kolinsky QC. London Borough of Hounslow instructed Richard Harwood QC and Lend Lease instructed James Strachan QC; the judge is Mr Justice Supperstone (author of the leading textbook on Judicial Review).
The development consists of 72 residential units, including affordable homes, in Essex Place and Acton Lane. The Empire House tower block is currently being refurbished from office to residential, with new retail frontage of seven units planned below. A 'stopping up' of Essex Place to allow the development to proceed has been halted for the moment.
The Judicial Review being taken by Simon Kverndal QC, has the backing of four residents’ groups: Friends of Turnham Green, Chiswick High Road Action Group, West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society and Acton Green Residents’ Association.
The challenge is 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 2, 2015