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Together We Did It!


Lewisham Council’s approval of plans to build a huge development on the Sydenham Hill ridge dominating London has been quashed in Court.

In a David v Goliath move, social housing campaigners have checked Lewisham Borough Council and the City of London Corporation from building an enormously over sized development in a Conservation Area, directly opposite a last tract of fragile ancient woodland.

Following a Judicial Review, Mrs Justice Lang handed down her Judgment at 10.00 hrs this morning [18.05.2021]. She concluded:

“Given the number of significant errors made by the Council, and the possibility that, absent such errors, a different conclusion could have been reached by the Planning Committee, I consider that the decision to grant planning permission ought to be quashed.”

The Judicial Review hearing on 27/28 April found a number of failures in the way Lewisham Council handled the planning application by the Corporation of the City of London to redevelop its Sydenham Hill estate, including that the Planning Committee were given an incomplete picture of the heritage harm and were materially misled on some aspects of the heritage issues.

Lawyers [Susan Ring of Harrison Grant Solicitors & Richard Harwood QC] acted on behalf of Helen Kinsey, a member of the Friends of Mais House and a tenant most severely affected by the plans.

Mrs Justice Lang found in Ms Kinsey’s favour on:

  • Ground 1: failure to give great weight to harm to heritage assets and failure consider extent of less than substantial harm as required by the Planning Policy Guidance.

  • Ground 2: failure to take into account the Conservation Officer’s advice

  • Ground 4: failure to make background papers available

  • Ground 6: failure to ask the Design Review Panel to consider the planning application in breach of legitimate expectation.

The Friends of Mais House are delighted the planning permission has been quashed. They are happy that they have finally been heard in a fair hearing and justice has been done. They sincerely hope the City of London Corporation will now work collaboratively with them to produce a sustainable co-design scheme for the Estate that respects the existing community, the environment and the heritage, as well as providing high quality, sustainable homes for new residents that will last well into the future. Background:

  • Friends of Mais House is a community group, formed by residents and neighbours of the City of London Corporation’s Sydenham Hill Estate as a result of their frustration at the failure of the City and Lewisham to listen to concerns about plans for a massive redevelopment of the Estate.

  • In November 2020, Lewisham Council granted planning permission for the development of 110 units on the Corporation of the City of London’s Sydenham Hill Estate, with the resulting loss of 63 sheltered homes at Mais House.

  • On 11 February Mrs Justice Lang gave the go ahead for a Judicial Review into the way Lewisham Council handled the planning application.

  • In her Order of 11 February, Mrs Justice Lang said: ‘In my view, the Claimant’s grounds are arguable and merit consideration at a full hearing’.

  • Lawyers [Susan Ring of Harrison Grant Solicitors & Richard Harwood QC] are acting on behalf of a member of the Friends of Mais House.

  • The High Court Judicial Review hearing took place before Mrs Justice Lang on 27-28 April and estate residents and neighbours worked together to raise funds for the legal challenge.

  • Residents said: “We fully support a redevelopment providing 100% social housing. However, the density of this proposal is disproportionate. It is set to hugely compromise the lives of both tenants and the environment.”

  • In exchange for the grant of planning permission, Lewisham Council were allocated 50% of the new units. Yet the much needed sheltered housing will not have been replaced and communal green space and amenity areas would have been lost, along with many much loved trees.

  • Standing at the top of Sydenham Hill Ridge, one of the highest points in South London, low rise Mais House would have been replaced with a group of blocks up to eight storeys in height, breaking the tree line for the first time and visible across London.

There is a strong sense of injustice about how the development consultation was carried out. Some of the issues consistently raised were:

  • Unprecedented density in a suburban location with poor infrastructure and transport links at the top of a hill

  • Incongruous design - overbearing and intrusive

  • Disregard for the Area of Special Character along Sydenham Ridge and impact on setting of Heritage assets.

  • Negative impact on biodiversity in a nature corridor, loss of 19 mature trees and severe damage to several more excellent specimens.

  • Loss of play space for children

  • Displacement of Mais House residents, lack of assisted living and limited accessible homes

  • Sydenham Woods wouldn't be there if local residents hadn't campaigned for it back in the 1980s - Southwark council wanted to build on it

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