Plans for 329 private homes in a 44-storey tower on the South Bank - and a public swimming pool and leisure centre - could now go ahead after the Court of Appeal dismissed a legal challenge by local resident William Ashton.
Planning permission for the controversial tower on the Doon Street car park site was granted by then communities secretary Hazel Blears in September 2008 after a public inquiry was held earlier that year.
Documents seen by the London SE1 website show that Hazel Blears overruled the advice of her own civil servants – as well as the planning inspector – when she gave the go-ahead to the tower.
Local social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders says that the only way to fund a much-desired leisure centre for local residents is by the development of a high-rise tower of private housing which would help to subsidise an adjacent swimming pool and related facilities.The provision of a sports centre and swimming pool at no public cost,
A legal challenge was mounted by local resident William Ashton which has now been dismissed – both on merit and standing – by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal also refused consent to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mr Ashton argued that Hazel Blears had been misled by a briefing paper prepared by her civil servants which said that the scheme would include "the provision of a sports centre and swimming pool at no public cost" when in fact public money is very likely to be spent on the leisure centre.
The dismissal of the appeal means that Coin Street Community Builders is now free to proceed with the development – though it must still secure the financing to deliver the scheme.
"We are delighted that we are finally able to move forward with our plans for 329 new homes and these much-needed public swimming and indoor leisure facilities," says Iain Tuckett, group director, Coin Street Community Builders.
Local MP and Mayor's commissioner for sport Kate Hoey said: "I am delighted by the court's decision. Nowhere in London has a greater need for a leisure centre such as this. It will make a real difference to the lives of so many people. Along with fellow residents, I look forward to making use of this fantastic new facility right in the heart of our community."
Rambert Dance Company has already announced its decision to proceed with the detailed design (by Allies and Morrison) of its new headquarters and dance studios and construction of the new premises -adjacent to the proposed tower and swimming pool – is due to commence in spring 2011.
English Heritage and Westminster Council and local resident William Ashton challenged the Secretary of State's decision but the High Court upheld the consent on 17 September 2009.
English Heritage and Westminster City Council decided to take their case no further.
Mr Ashton challenged the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal but the 3 judges announced on 24 May that they saw "no merit in the submission that the Secretary of State's decision was inadequately reasoned" and that, further, they did "not consider that the appellant had standing under section 288 to bring the present claim... he was not an objector to the proposal in any formal sense and did not make representations, either oral or written, at the properly constituted Public Inquiry". The court refused leave of appeal to the Supreme Court.