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Elizabeth House judicial review granted

A High Court judge yesterday granted permission to an application by Westminster City Council and English Heritage for a judicial review of the decision by the Secretary of State (SoS) not to call in proposals for a £800 million redevelopment of Elizabeth House near London's Waterloo Station.

The proposals by a joint venture between Chelsfield and London and Regional were approved by Lambeth Council in November last year. Under the plans, the existing 1960s office block on the site would be demolished and two new buildings constructed, including a 29-storey tower, to comprise 142 homes and 88,649 square metres of office space.

Westminster City Council and English Heritage subsequently called on SoS Eric Pickles to call in the proposals for determination. They objected to the proposals because of concerns that the development would have a negative impact on views from the Westminster World Heritage site.

The Department for Communities and Local Government sent a letter to the Council in March in which it said that the SoS would not be calling in the application, because it said the development proposals would not have any significant effects beyond the "immediate locality". Westminster and English Heritage launched a challenge to that decision in June.

The developers said they remained "very confident" about the judicial review hearing according to local reports. "The Elizabeth House proposals have been thoroughly scrutinised by Lambeth, the Mayor of London and the SoS and each time they have reached the same conclusion, which is that there is minimal harm to views but significant benefits to Waterloo and to London," they said.

Westminster City Council's deputy leader Robert Davis said the Council was "delighted" at the High Court's decision. "The Council is committed to preserving the status of the Palace of Westminster as one of the world's most important and most recognised World Heritage Sites. As we have already proven in the Victoria area of London, you can create areas for jobs, growth and enterprise – but it does not have to be at the cost of risking the nation's heritage," he said.

"This is extremely disappointing as it means further delays to a once-in-a-generation opportunity for jobs, homes and investment in the area," said Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck according to the reports. "Lambeth Council believes the Elizabeth House development is absolutely consistent with the government's National Planning Policy Framework, it is fully supported by the Mayor of London and will bring considerable economic, social and cultural benefits to the area," he added.

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