Next steps on the legal battle

The post below explains that lawyers acting for the St Helens Residents Association sent in January a ‘letter before action’ to Hammersmith & Fulham Council.  This set out two grounds for Judicial Review of the council’s decision to issue a planning permission for the second phase of the Imperial West development.

The council has since responded to this letter and their response is with our lawyers and Counsel.  Meanwhile we are busy raising more funds for the legal costs involved in fighting a court action.   The council will have set aside in its 2013/14 budget significant sums to defend the series of legal challenges that it now faces, on Shepherds Bush Market, Earls Court, and Imperial West.  It is Council Tax payers that foot the bill for these costs – all of which result from the council;’s cavalier approach to the planning system.

The next court hearing on one of several ongoing JRs on the Earls Court development (on the council’s sale of land to Capital and Counties) is due for an oral hearing in late April.

One aspect of the potential Judicial Review on Imperial West is the £35m government grant awarded to Imperial College, after the council’s Planning Applications Committee had examined the financial viability of the development and had concluded that it could finance no more affordable housing.

We have been pursuing FoI applications with the College and with the council, asking for copies of correspondence between the two parties on this subject.  The College has told us they have no such material, while the council has said that it has – but wishes to submit this documentation to a ‘public interest’ test before deciding whether to release it.

So we have asked the College to have another look at its records.  If it did not bother to notify the council of a £35m government grant, and its potential impact on the financing of the Imperial West scheme, it certainly should have done so.  This is not a small sum of money, and must have affected the financial viability assessment carried out by the District Valuer (an independent body).

We have yet to get an answer on where this £35m is going, and what public benefit it is meant to achieve?  The College has not answered our letter of 17th December (despite reminders).  You can access a copy of our letter to the College, from the link in the January 23rd post below.

We feel that this is a matter which is clearly in the public interest, and that Imperial College (a university with charitable status) should not be able to hide behind a blanket of ‘commercial confidentiality’.   So we await with interest to see if these documents will be released.



3 thoughts on “Next steps on the legal battle

  1. On the comment above by ‘Anon’, we are not disputing that the £35m HEFCE grant was a contribution towards the Research and Translation Hub. But when these public funds were injected into the scheme last November, did Imperial College notify the council of the fact? It seems not.
    The scheme was given planning approval on the basis that it would provide a limited amount of ‘key worker’ housing. All developments across London are required to provide a proportion of affordable housing, under policies in the London Plan and local plans. To ignore these requirements is unlawful.
    After this association notified the council about the £35m grant, announced after the planning permission had been approved, the council undertook a very casual check on the Financial Viability Assessment which had formed a key part of the original planning approval. Council officers (not councillors) decided that the £35m of grant made no difference to the viability of the scheme.
    We have been saying how come? If Imperial was in a position to raise this sum from private investors in July 2012, how come it was not by November?
    And what will be the public benefit of the HEFCE grant (taxpayers money)? Will it do anything more than reduce the borrowing target of Imperial and Voreda Capital, thereby allowing them to retain an even greater proportion of the long-term investment return on the development?
    This is a question that Imperial should be able to answer. But so far it has refused to do so… .

  2. Good luck trying to spoil an excellent plan to change a run-down part of London and replace the BBC jobs with technology and education jobs.

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