Persistent church wins planning fight

Posted: 8th November 2013

Graveyard2Persistence, it seems, can bring worthwhile results for would-be developers after a Parochial Church Council that won planning permission for a controversial housing scheme - at the fourth attempt - finally saw off a High Court bid to strip it of the consent.

Residents of the Headstone Estate, in Harrow, north London, fiercely objected to the development of a 3.5-acre green area that was almost surrounded by their homes. However, the Parochial Church Council of St George's Church, Headstone, had fought tooth and nail for the right to build new homes on it.

The Council had made three unsuccessful planning applications, as well as three unsuccessful appeals to planning inspectors at hard-fought public inquiries, before the local authority finally granted consent for 15 flats and eight houses to be built on the land.

The development would include affordable homes and about 1.3 acres of open land would be retained and made available for public recreation. It was hoped that the development would provide valuable funds for the Council’s good works and much-needed refurbishment of the church building.

Campaigning resident Peter Gibson took his complaints to the High Court. A member of the Headstone Estate Covenant Group, which had consistently objected to the plans, he claimed that the council had misapplied planning policies and had failed to take sufficient account of the environmental impact of the scheme.

Dismissing his judicial review challenge, the Court noted, "The development has been identified to be in the public interest, in that it will expand public access to an open space and increase the supply of affordable homes. It is also in the interests of the Parochial Council that it should proceed."

Although one planning inspector had noted the ‘considerable unease’ caused by the ‘undoubtedly controversial’ proposals, there was no ‘compelling need’ to retain the whole of the site as open space. The Court concluded, "The crucial point...is that the development would achieve the opening of the retained part of the open space to the public in a practical and effective way for the first time."