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Court of Appeal allows Barratt Homes' east London scheme

The Court of Appeal has rejected a local resident's claim that Southwark Council should have ensured that better and larger community facilities were provided as part of a local development and that this was a "substantive legitimate expectation". 

Tom Godfrey appealed against the High Court's decision to refuse his judicial review application against Southwark Council's approval of Barratt Homes' plans for a mixed-use scheme on the Rotherhithe Peninsula development, east London.

Godfrey argued that there was a "substantive legitimate expectation" that better community and health centre facilities would be provided, under the permission approved by Southwark Borough Council.

The development site was historically a centre providing community services, which included a stand-alone community hall with 413 square metres of floor space, however the community centre in the approved scheme only has a floorspace of 124 sq m and is set within the health centre building.

The site had been earmarked for development by the Council since April 2002, when it prepared a project brief which was described as the Downtown Brief.

The brief provided that the developer would be expected to carry out improvements to or to create new infrastructure that may include financing and building “a new community hall on site if the existing hall site is to be redeveloped”.

However, the Court of Appeal concluded that there is a "rigorous standard is to be applied when a substantive legitimate expectation is claimed on the basis of a representation or promise by a public authority".

Godfrey had relied on the project brief from 2002, which proposed a facility "substantially larger" than the one outlined in current plans.

The Court concluded that the case fell well below the standards constituting a "substantive legitimate expectation" and noted that the delay of so many years meant that the 2002 project brief was not a material consideration in the statutory sense to a decision made in 2010.

In its reasons for granting panning permission, the Council referred to "a number of important benefits", which included the provision of a new, better quality health centre and the provision of a community centre.

"There were competing needs for space in the proposed development and other interests, in addition to the need for a community centre," the Court said. "It was far from being an abuse of power to assess current needs rather than applying an assessment of needs made many years before."

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