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High court dismisses challenge to Crystal Palace Park 'masterplan'

The High Court has backed the Secretary of State's approval of a proposed 'masterplan' for the £68 million redevelopment of Crystal Palace Park. The Court dismissed a legal challenge to the plan by a local campaign group.13 Jun 2012

Anthony Elliott and John Payne challenged the grant of permission for the redevelopment, which included a housing development on Metropolitan Open Land that was justified due to "very special circumstances" that outweighed the "very strong presumption" against development on such land.

Members of the Crystal Palace Community Association (CPCA) claimed that insufficient conditions had been placed on building the homes near the Rockhill and Sydenham Gates, and that the Secretary of State had not considered the effect of the developments on bats.

The Judge rejected the five grounds of challenge to the grant of planning permission and ruled that the Secretary of State had been entitled to decide that proceeds of sale of the residential developments were used for improvements to the park by means of planning obligations under a section 106 agreement, rather than planning conditions.

The CPCA also claimed that if approval was given to build 180 luxury flats to be built on Grade II* registered Metropolitan Open Land, it could establish a legal precedent that would threaten all public parks and open spaces throughout the country.
The Secretary of State approved the residential development and followed the conclusions drawn by the original Planning Inspector, who found that the housing would help to fund the cost of the improvements to the park. Other planning conditions were also agreed to ensure that construction of the homes did not begin until additional funding was secured.

In response to the residents' claim that the Secretary of State regarded some conditions as unlawful and that planning obligations were just a device to circumvent the law, the Judge said "It was nothing of the kind."

"It was simply an alternative means of achieving the desired objective without the risk of the mechanism which was used to achieve that objective being regarded as contrary to planning policy," the Judge said.

The residents' claim that the Secretary of State had failed to meet his obligations under the Habitats Directive, in relation to foraging bats said to commute across the park, was also rejected. The Judge agreed with the Secretary of State’s Inspector, who concluded that planning permission should be granted despite the impact which the development would have in the short term on the commuting routes of bats, which “he clearly regarded would be relatively minor”.