Holgate J has today given judgment in claims by the Mayor of London against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in relation to the development of a new science block and sports facilities at Harrow School. In 2018, the Mayor gave a direction to the London Borough of Harrow to refuse planning permission for the proposed development on the grounds of harm to Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). The School appealed, and the appeal was recovered by the Secretary of State who ultimately allowed the appeal and ordered the Mayor to pay the School’s costs of the appeal.
The Mayor challenged both the substantive decision and the costs order in the High Court. Following a two day remote hearing, Holgate J dismissed the substantive challenge but quashed the costs decision. In the substantive challenge, the Court found:
(1) There was no unfairness from an alleged departure from a statement of common ground in respect of harm to the “purposes” of MOL;
(2) There was no error in finding there to be no harm to such “purposes” from the appeal proposals, despite a finding of some heritage harm;
(3) The Secretary of State had properly had regard to heritage harm as “any other harm” in applying paragraph 144 of the NPPF and concluding that “very special circumstances” existed for granting planning permission notwithstanding the inappropriateness of the development in MOL. Since the Secretary of State had considered heritage harm (and discharged his statutory duties in respect of that harm), the criticism that he had failed then to take that harm into account in applying the “very special circumstances” test was a criticism of the structure of the decision letter rather than a point of substance.
In respect of the costs decision, the Court found that the conclusions of the Inspector in his costs report were legally flawed in some respects, and so far as they were not legally flawed, it had not been established that they had caused the whole costs of the appeal to be unnecessarily incurred. Accordingly, the costs decision was quashed.
A copy of the judgment is available here.
Richard Turney acted for the Secretary of State, instructed by the Government Legal Department.