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Mayor of London loses statutory challenge over permission for substantial development at top private school

The Mayor of London has failed in a challenge by statutory review to a decision of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to allow an appeal by Harrow School against refusal of planning permission for a substantial development.

The proposed development comprised the demolition of a number of buildings within the appeal site, including the existing sports building, and the construction of a new sports building and a new science building, a new landscaping core, new visitor car parking and various alterations to and relocations of facilities.

The only part of the proposal to which the Mayor objected was the sports building. On his direction, Harrow Council had in February 2018 refused permission on the basis that the sports building was “inappropriate development within Metropolitan Open Land and causes substantial harm to the openness of the Metropolitan Open Land - by reason of its excessive footprint and its location”.

The school successfully appealed. The Secretary of State ordered the Mayor to pay Harrow School’s costs.

In The Mayor of London v the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities And Local Government & Ors [2020] EWHC 1176 Mr Justice Holgate concluded: “Not even the attractively presented submissions of [the Mayor’s QC] can disguise the excessively legalistic and ultimately unsound nature of the Mayor's grounds of challenge.”

There was therefore no basis for the Court to intervene in relation to the decision on the planning appeal, he said.

However, the judge did decide that the Secretary of State's decision to order the Mayor to pay the school's costs should be quashed.