Judge backs London timber yard redevelopment plan

Plans to redevelop a London timber yard into new flats and shops have been backed by a High Court judge, who dismissed arguments that planning committee members had been 'substantially misled' over the proposals.

High Court: has dismissed legal challenge (picture: Ian Bottle)
High Court: has dismissed legal challenge (picture: Ian Bottle)

Newson's Yard, in Pimlico Road, London SW1, has been in continuous use as a timber yard since it was built in the 19th Century. But last November, Westminster City Council granted planning permission for its transformation by Grosvenor Estate Belgravia into retail spaces and luxury flats.

Builders’ merchant Travis Perkins has occupied the yard since the 1990s and said the development would be a sad loss to the area.

Although not listed, it was the last surviving timber yard in England and Wales still operating from its original site. As well as providing local employment, it was a precious resource for local tradesmen, Judge Milwyn Jarman QC was told.

Set in the Belgravia Conservation Area, Historic England had referred to the red brick building's "strong local historic importance'.

Objections had also been received from the Belgravia Society, but the council's director of planning recommended approval of the scheme.

Challenging the permission, Travis Perkins claimed the director's report "substantially misled" councillors who made the decision when it "indicated in several places that the subdivision of the internal space of the yard building and the erection of extended mezzanines fell outside planning control", according to the judgment.

Gregory Jones QC, for Travis Perkins, accepted that objections relating to the cessation of the yard as a timber and builders' merchants, cessation of that use as an historic use, and changes to the internal fabric of the yard building were all referred to in the report, the judgment said.

But what he complained of is that the director in analysing the objections on these issues failed to advise the members of the committee how to deal with them and in particular failed to advise that these issues were material considerations to be weighed in the balance, the judgment continued.

But finding in favour of the local authority, the judge said it would be wrong to subject the director's report to "hyper-critical" legal analysis. When read fairly, as a whole, the report was not misleading and the council was entitled to grant planning permission.

Travis Perkins (Properties) Limited v Westminster City Council. Case Number: CO/67/2017

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