Vanbrugh Court Residents' Association v London Borough of Lambeth [2022] EWHC 1207 (Admin) (20 May 2022)

A judicial review of Lambeth Council’s decision to grant permission for a roof level extension to a four storey block of flats at Vanbrugh Court, Wincott St. The grounds of challenge were that:

1) The Council failed to take into account a material consideration, namely the structural feasibility of the building to support the proposed development. Councillors on the Planning Committee were incorrectly advised that this was not a material planning consideration, and therefore failed to require a full structural survey in order to assess whether the development can be constructed without requiring residents to vacate their homes during construction (Ground 1).

2) Planning Officers failed to make further enquiries as to whether or not the proposed construction of the development will be achievable without the residents having to vacate (Ground 2).

3) The decision to grant planning permission is Wednesbury unreasonable, as it was based on an acceptance of the contention, on behalf of the applicant, that there will be no need to relocate residents during construction, despite the lack of a structural survey and despite a report commissioned by the applicant acknowledging the risk of greater structural work being required than assumed (Ground 3).

4) The Council misinterpreted Policy Q8 of its Local Plan, which states that the Council will seek to ensure that 'proposed building designs' are buildable. Members of the Planning Committee were erroneously advised that Policy Q8 only relates to questions of the 'buildability' of the detailed design of scheme, not the buildability of the scheme as a whole (Ground 4).

5) The Council failed to have regard to and/or misinterpreted paragraph 120(e) of the National Planning Policy Framework, which refers to support for 'upward extensions' where schemes are well-designed. The Council interpreted the reference to design as precluding consideration of structural integrity (Ground 5).

6) The implementation of the proposed upward extension carries an unacceptable risk to the existing properties within the building. On this basis, the decision to grant permission constitutes a disproportionate interference with the rights of the residents under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Ground 6).

The Judge (Thornton J) dismissed the claim on all grounds. Matthew Dale-Harris acted for the Council. The judgement may be found here.

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