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.