FoPC calls on the Council to rethink its plans for Putney Hospital
Community group ‘Friends of Putney Common’ (www.friendsofputneycommon.org) has obtained an undertaking from Wandsworth Council to quash the planning permission granted on the 29th of October to build a 420 pupil primary school and 24 luxury flats in a mixed-use development on the island site surrounded by Putney Common.
Presented by FoPC with clear legal opinion that the lack of an environmental assessment could be successfully challenged through judicial review the Council has decided to withdraw their planning permission.
Should the Council decide to reapply with a similar proposal to overdevelop the site with both a 2FE primary school and 24 luxury flats it will be axiomatic that a full environmental assessment will now be required. While FoPC’s challenge focused on the transport issues – increased traffic and difficult parking - raised by the proposal, it is also the case that other environment issues will need to be addressed, as stipulated in the EIA regulations prior to any reapplication. These include the impact on the natural environment (there is evidence of bats and badgers, both protected species), the health impact on primary age children of placing the school alongside one the busiest roads in Putney, the risks of accidents from crossing the Lower Richmond Road, the lack of parking facilities and much else.
A spokesman for FoPC said in response to the news:
“We have doubted the honesty and integrity of the whole planning process from the very beginning and we’ve been proved correct in this view throughout. This has been a woeful display of arrogance and obfuscation from the Council. The original planning application from the Council’s Education Service to itself as Planning Authority went through numerous revisions before being declared invalid. Even before the permission was finally granted in October we had pointed out that the lack of a thorough Environmental Assessment was unlawful, and any planning permission granted would therefore be flawed. They did not listen. Nor did they hear the 628 objections from over 800 residents and other local organisations who made specific objections. The actions of the Planning Department in particular and the Councillors who voted for and support the scheme has been little short of a disgrace.”
They continued: “We are also now accused by the Council’s Education Spokesperson Councillor Kathy Tracey of being a ‘small number of people who are trying to prevent a much needed primary school being built by tying us up in litigation.’ This is not so. We have wide support in the community has demonstrated by the number of objections registered on the WBC Planning website. We endorse the need for a new primary school, but not the one suggested by the Council. It is too big. It has a rooftop playground with restricted space. The access roads encroach onto Putney Common. 320 residents used an FoPC postcard to protest. We challenged the lack of an EIA for clear planning and environmental reasons. The Council was warned of the problems before they granted planning permission, and only a legal challenge remained to halt wrong-doing.”
Background to FoPC’s legal challenge (http://www.friendsofputneycommon.org)
To avoid an 'Environmental Impact Assessment' (EIA) in January 2012 the Council provided itself with a 'screening opinion report' in which they justified their unusual decision not to undertake a full assessment of the environmental risks involved in their proposed development of flats and a 2FE school adjacent to Putney Common on the old Putney Hospital site.
FoPC obtained a detailed opinion from Barrister Philip Petchey which demonstrated that the screening opinion was not valid, and therefore the planning approval unlawful. As the Council had previously brushed aside objections to the lack of an EIA, the Friends began the process which would lead to a judicial review in the High Court. The first step was to send a 'Pre-action Protocol Letter' from FoPC's solicitor explaining the reasons behind the challenge to their actions. This letter was sent on the 13th of November and gave WBC’s solicitors 14 days to respond.
In the screening opinion the Council had included the following statement: "A transport assessment of the proposed development concludes that the proposals should not result in any significant additional traffic on the local highway than previously experienced. There should therefore be no significant traffic impact as a result of the proposal".
On the 27th of November a reply from Sharpe Pritchard acting for the Council was received. It was something of a surprise therefore that in their defence of their actions they stated that "When adopting its screening opinion, the Council had not been provided and therefore did not have regard to any formal transport assessment submitted for or on behalf of the applicant for planning permission. The reference within the report which led to the screening opinion to a "transport assessment" is directed at an officer's assessment as to the transport implications of the proposed development". This assessment was not included with their letter.
Today (13th of December 2012) FoPC received the following letter from the Council’s solicitor which includes the following statement: “... our client, the London Borough of Wandsworth, is prepared to enter into a Consent Order agreeing to quash the grant of planning permission dated 29 October 2012.
FoPC calls on the Council to rethink its plans for Putney Hospital and listen to all residents. It will be holding an open public meeting in early 2013 when all sides can put their opinions.
Friends of Putney Common (FoPC)
January 25, 2013