High Court rejects judicial review challenge by the French Government

01 Jan 2018

Planning and Environment

In a judgment handed down by the Planning Court on the 27th November 2015 Mr Justice Holgate has rejected an attempt by the French Government to judicially review planning decisions taken by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (‘RBKC’).

The French Government was trying to block the building of a mega-basement intended to house a collection of vintage cars. The works are planned for a Grade II listed mansion at 10 Kensington Palace Gardens which is leased from the Crown Estate by Mr and Mrs Hunt.

Jon Hunt, the founder of Foxtons estate agents and his wife Lois, have already started work. They were first granted planning permission and listed building consent in 2008, and a smaller scheme was given listed building consent in 2010.

The French government challenged the validity of certificates of lawfulness granted by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in April 2015 which confirmed that proposed works were lawful. After the oral hearing earlier this month the French Government had issued a statement saying: “The over-sized proposed development at No 10 Kensington Palace Gardens is threatening directly the integrity and the security of our building in contravention of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961”.

However, Mr Justice Holgate described the several legal grounds of challenge pursued as being ‘unarguable’. In an extensive and detailed judgment he dismissed suggestions that the certificates were ‘ultra vires’ because they purported to certify the lawfulness of works already carried out. In rejecting further arguments relating to a suggested legitimate expectation to be consulted, the ‘Whitley’ Principle, the approach of officers in their reports and the construction of earlier consents, the judge made it plain that he did not consider that RBKC had acted unlawfully in granting the certificates.

Describing some of the arguments pursued by the French Government as ‘novel’ and ‘misconceived’, the judge held that a claim for judicial review could not succeed. Tom Cosgrove advised and appeared on behalf of RBKC in the Planning Court.

Click here to read the judgement in full.