In 2014 I started court action over plans to redevelop the Shell Centre on London’s South Bank.
I represented myself and won praise from a High Court judge, Mr Justice Collins. He found serious misconduct on the part of the planning inspector who reccomended that the development should go ahead. Despite this he did not find in my favour and the case went to the Court of Appeal. The court decided that the developers had a case to answer and granted a full hearing. However in the end they found against me.
I am now appealing for funds to cover my court costs. I am liable to pay £5,000 of costs and an additional £2000 in court fees.
About the project
London’s South Bank is the cultural heart of our city. Facing Parliament, the area is filled with some of the most important historic monuments in the country. But it is now under threat from developers who want to cash in on the area’s popularity by building exclusive luxury homes whilst destroying public spaces.
Last year I took the Secretary of State, The Shell International Petroleum Company, Canary Wharf Group, Qatari Diar, The Mayor of London and the London Borough of Lambeth to the High Court over Eric Pickles’ decision to approve the demolition and redevelopment of the Shell Centre on London’s South Bank.
People have differing views about the Shell Centre but the new plans will be a disaster. Eight towers behind the Royal Festival Hall, a grade I listed building, and in the view of Parliament Square will wreck the South Bank and put the World Heritage Status of Westminster at risk.
The towers are so packed together that the new public square at the centre of it will not receive any sunlight (99.3% of the square will have less than two hours sunlight a day), and one third of the flats will fail minimum daylight standards.
Pickles approved the plans after a public inquiry. The inspector who presided, Mr John Braithwaite, was so hostile to objectors that his recomendation appeared to be a foregone conclusion. He found that the buildings were not visually intrusive in any views of listed buildings. Below is a photo of the proposed development in a view of the Royal Festival Hall. You can make your own mind up about whether there is anything visually intrusive about it.
The High Court
Despite having no legal representation or training I managed to bring the case to the High Court. In February, Mr Justice Collins issued his judgement. Although he was highly critical of the planning inspector, saying that his behaviour at the inquiry amounted to ‘judicial misconduct’, he did not find in my favour. He did however accept that this was an entirely legitimate case and refused to award costs against me.
The battle continues
I simply did not see how it can be right in law that we can rely on a decision made by a public official who has been found to be seriously lacking in his conduct. Especially when the decision will reshape one of the most important parts of our capital city.
I decided to go to the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Sullivan agreed with me that the judgement of Mr Justice Collins appeared contradictory and granted me a full hearing in front of three court of appeal judges. Unfortunately, after hearing the case they confirmed the judgment of the lower courts.
Although in the end I lost, the fight was one worth taking on. The case raised serious issues about the conduct of planning authorities. Hopefully action like this will make developers think again before engaging in the kind of aggressive tactics we experienced. Now they will know they could face a long and costly court battle if they fail to abide by planning rules.
I face a claim for costs for £5,000 and a further £2,000 in court fees. Despite the long running legal action costs are limited due to the costs cap put in place by the Court to allow me to take my claim forward.