Judge dismisses impropriety claim over Ealing planning committee appointment

A judge has rejected a claim that the membership of a London borough's planning committee had been politically massaged in order to secure approval for a regeneration project.

Objector Doug Carnegie had claimed that a councillor on the London Borough of Ealing’s planning committee, who was likely to vote against the plans, had been substituted on the committee by another who was likely to be in favour.

However, rejecting Carnegie's judicial review challenge, a judge ruled that the selection of the committee's members was "part of the democratically elected political process".

As such it was a matter which was "outwith the reach of the courts", said Mrs Justice Patterson.
She added that, in any event, there was no evidence that the councillor who actually sat on the committee had "a closed mind" on the issue.

The High Court's ruling opens the way for partial refurbishment, demolition and redevelopment of Acton's Oaks Shopping Centre.

That would form the centrepiece of a major redevelopment of the whole Churchfield Road area, including new retail outlets and 142 new homes.

The committee based its decision on an officer's report that the project would be "a viable development of an under-utilized brownfield site".

It would regenerate the town centre, act as "a catalyst for future investment" and provide a number of affordable homes in a "good living environment".

Ealing granted planning permission to developers, Acton Regeneration Group Limited, on April 8 this year.

Carnegie claimed that the planning committee's composition was changed "deliberately to alter the outcome of the planning process".

However, the judge said that argument could only be made out if it could be shown that the substituted councillor lacked impartiality.

There was no evidence he had a closed mind and the substitution therefore "made no difference", she ruled.

R on the Application of Carnegie v London Borough of Ealing. Case Number: CO/2273/2014

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