A High Court judge yesterday found in favour of OPEN in its claim that Hackney Council, in late 2005, made an unlawful attempt to demolish the historic buildings at 4-14 Dalston Lane, without public consultation.
OPEN issued proceedings on 13 December 2005, challenging the Council’s decision to proceed with demolition of the buildings without making a full planning application. OPEN is committed to seeing some or all of the heritage buildings restored for new uses as part of regeneration of the wider area. OPEN argued that a full planning application, involving public consultation and a decision by the elected Members of Hackney Council, was required. A High Court injunction was subsequently issued preventing any demolition work until yesterday’s judicial review. The injunction has protected the site from December 2005 until now.
Finding in favour of OPEN’s claims yesterday, Mr Justice Lloyd Jones stated in his judgment that the Council had created the impression that it had taken a decision to demolish the buildings as soon as prior approval was granted by the Planning Department and that full planning permission was not required. The Judge found that OPEN was justified in issuing the proceedings for an injunction and judicial review. He ordered the Council to now pay OPEN’s legal costs.
Bill Parry-Davies, chairman of OPEN, expressed satisfaction at the outcome but cautioned that the buildings remain highly vulnerable to Council demolition. “The Council did not deny in Court, that at a meeting in late September 2005 its Property Manager, Head of Planning and Hackney’s Mayor agreed to demolish without further consultation with either the public or elected members“, said Mr. Parry-Davies. “The Council’s contempt of legal and democratic processes is quite breathtaking. Our campaign continues.”
Since the issue of the High Court proceedings on 13 December 2005, and following representations made by OPEN to the Planning Department, the Council have accepted the need to make a full planning application for demolition. After a 21 days period in which the public could lodge objections, the Council’s application for total demolition came before a Planning Sub-Committee on 6 February 2006. Despite the overwhelming number of objections to the proposals the Planning Sub-Committee voted to demolish the buildings in their entirety. The Sub-Committee imposed a condition that, prior to demolition, there must first be a survey to record historical structural and architectural detail of the buildings and expressed hope that the more notable elements could be relocated in the redevelopment of the site or elsewhere.
Evidence has also come to light that, sometime between 18 October 2005 when the Council secured the buildings against squatters and 16 December when a planning officer inspected them, the Victorian houses at 4-6 Dalston Lane have been deliberately damaged and made uninhabitable by the removal of the staircases.
Since Sunday 19 February the buildings have been occupied by people concerned to prevent their demolition.
OPEN is now considering the legality of the Council’s Planning Sub-Committee’s resolution on 6 February, and any decision by the Council to now act on the planning permission granted to demolish the buildings.