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London Bridge development subject to High Court challenge by community group

Community group Bermondsey Village Action Group (BVAG) has applied to the High Court for permission to launch a judicial review challenge against the grant of planning permission for the redevelopment of London Bridge Station.15 Jun 2012

BVAG claims that the London Borough of Southwark (LBS) and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson failed to follow planning policy and the procedure for heritage and the environment, which it claims will lead to "irreplaceable railway heritage" being lost.

The proposed redevelopment of London Bridge Station is part of Network Rail's £6 billion Thameslink programme. Plans include the development of a new rail platform and the development of Britain's largest station concourse.

Plans also propose new retail space, including a supermarket; a 65 metre tall office building which is to be located over the tracks; and a 14 storey office building on Tooley Street, along with new entrances to the station on Tooley Street and St Thomas Street.

The challenge by BVAG is against the four decisions by each of the defendants, LBS, the Mayor of London, the Secretary of State and English Heritage, which led to the grant of planning consent by LBS for the proposed redevelopment.

The community group's challenge requests that the High Court issue an order that would quash the grant of planning consent for the proposed redevelopment and for the subsidiary applications for listed building consent and conservation area consent.

The community group is opposed to the demolition of heritage buildings and has campaigned for the buildings to be integrated into a revised scheme.

The group claims that LBS "erroneously" accepted Network Rail's reasons for demolition of listed buildings and as such, the reasons for demolition that it put forward to its planning committee were "invalid and without proper scrutiny".

The planning applications failed to accurately state the extent of the listed structures and unlawfully omitted the proposed partial demolition from the application relating to the arches in the description of the application, according to BVAG.

As a result of this "misrepresentation" LBS permitted itself to follow the wrong procedure for processing the application and permitted itself not to make the correct referral and not to apply the correct policy to its determination, BVAG said.

The group claims that the proposed development should have been referred to the Secretary of State under the Thameslink Order, which requires applications for listed building consent that are subject to the Order to be referred to the Secretary of State.

"The Council unlawfully declined to make such a referral [and] on complaint from BVAG that the Council proposed to ignore this legal obligation to refer to the SoS the Council responded with a justification which is unsound in fact and law," the BVAG said.

"The Secretary of State failed to properly consider calling-in the applications for the proposed redevelopment according to the published criteria," BVAG said. "The Secretary of State [also] failed to require the referral of the applications for the proposed redevelopment to him despite being aware that LBS had unlawfully resolved not to do so."

The group also claims that when the Mayor of London became aware the LBS had failed to follow proper procedures, he should have exercised his power to either refuse planning consent or to act as the local planning authority.

The challenge by BVAG includes English Heritage as a defendant, because it claims that the "ongoing advice and guidance" English Heritage provided was "wrong, irrational and untenable" and that, contrary to their duty to secure the preservation of heritage assets, was "intended to facilitate, or diminish obstacles to, their demolition".