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Planning Court Quashes Grant of Residential Planning Permission after Council failed lawfully to address issues of noise and heritage

In a judgment handed down on the 8th September 2015 Mr Justice Stewart has quashed a planning permission granted by the London Borough of Camden for the conversion of a public house into residential flats.

The Claimant, Obar Camden Limited ('Obar'), operates an adjacent and well known grade II listed nightclub, live music venue and performance space on Camden High Street trading under the name 'KOKO' (formerly known as 'the Camden Palace Theatre').

Obar brought a judicial review in the Planning Court seeking to quash the grant of planning permission contending that the council had failed to assess the heritage impact of the proposal and had approached the issue of potential noise impacts on residents of the proposed flats in a way that was legally and procedurally flawed and irrational.

In an judgment of note for those seeking to challenge grants of permission as well as those advising decision makers on the content of officer reports, Stewart J held that:

  • The officer report upon which the planning committee had relied had failed address matters in s.66 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 which required 'special regard' to be given to the desirability of preserving a listed building or its setting. He rejected a submission that members of the committee should be treated as an informed membership with an implicit working knowledge of such statutory tests. Officers had also failed to address in their report relevant sections of the NPPF section 12.
  • The officers who drafted the report to committee had failed to relay relevant concerns of specialist noise officers to members, so that the overall effect of the report 'significantly misled' the committee on material matters.
  • Having resolved to grant planning permission with specific conditions identified, officers unlawfully changed the wording of the conditions without returning the matter to committee. Stewart J held, having considered the case of Couves [2015] EWHC 504 (Admin) and Kides [2002] EWCA Civ 1370, that officers had no power in this instance to redraft the conditions which had been specified in the resolution.
  • In addition, the conditions relating to noise that were imposed on the planning permission were irrational or Wednesbury unreasonable as they could not fulfil the aims they sought to achieve.

In light of the several errors, the claim for judicial review brought by Obar succeeded and the planning permission was quashed. Tom Cosgrove appeared on behalf of Obar, instructed by Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP.

A copy of the judgment can be found here.

For those interested in Planning Court Challenges "Cornerstone on the Planning Court", the definitive guide to the new Planning Court produced by Cornerstone Barristers, is now available to buy online and in book shops.