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High Court judge quashes grant of planning permission for 110-unit scheme

The High Court has ruled that a conservation officer’s advice should not have been withheld from the London Borough of Lewisham’s planning committee when it approved the redevelopment of part of the Sydenham Hill estate.

Its decision was challenged by local resident Helen Kinsey, who was represented by Richard Harwood QC of 39 Essex Chambers.

In Kinsey, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough Of Lewisham [2021] EWHC 1286 (Admin) Mrs Justice Lang quashed the planning permission for four, six and seven storey blocks adjacent to Lammas Green housing development, which is Grade II listed.

The report put before the committee had incorporated most of the conservation officer’s consultation response, but not her views on the level of harm.

Her opinion that the plan would cause a “moderate to high degree of less than substantial harm” to the conservation area and a “moderate degree” to the listed buildings) was replaced with the phrase “a degree of harm”.

39 Essex said in comments on the case: “Failing to report these downplayed the level of harm. The report also omitted to record that she had objected. This reporting was inadequate. 

“Additionally the planning officer had failed to apply significant weight to the heritage harm when carrying out the balancing exercise.”

Lewisham had refused to publish the conservation officer’s response when the application was considered. 

Lang J held that it should have been disclosed as a background paper under the Local Government Act 1972, s100D and rejected the argument that it was not a background paper because it was produced by the same council department as the final report.

Mark Smulian