Legal challenge to neighbourhood plan for St Quintin estate

Henry Peterson, Chair of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum updates us on the status of neighbourhood plan for St Quintin estate. A public referendum takes place on Thursday 25th Feb at St Helens Church on whether to adopt the plan. We have provided financial support to the forum to let residents know about this crucial date in deciding the future of their neighbourhood.

Google earth image of St Quintin estate, North Kensington

Google earth image of North Kensington

The Edwardian streets of the St Quintin estate (between Dalgarno Gardens and the Westway, on the western boundary of the Royal Borough) are popular because of their wide streets and pavements and the generally open feel of the area. The St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum has been working hard to protect from development the three remaining original ‘backland’ green spaces behind the terraced streets of this part of North Kensington.

Originally these backlands were used as ‘recreation or leisure gardens’. The West London Bowling Club at 112a Highlever Road survives to this day, and is flourishing under new management as a bowling and local social club.

Last October, following a public hearing, the independent ‘examiner’ of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan concluded that the three remaining St Quintin backlands should be designated as Local Green Space. Kensington and Chelsea accepted the examiner’s conclusions, and the StQW Plan goes to the vote in a local referendum on February 25th. If supported by a majority of residents in the neighbourhood, the StQW Plan will be adopted by the Council and will give strong protection against development on these three green areas.

The legal challenge to the neighbourhood plan for St Quintin Estate

The landowner of the site at Nursery Lane W10, occupied until last year by Clifton Nurseries, is not happy at this outcome. The Legard family in Yorkshire inherited the land in the 1950s, when the St Quintin line died out. When informed that a neighbourhood plan was being prepared, the land was marketed by the Legards as a ‘residential development opportunity’. Metropolis Property Ltd made what now appears to be a conditional offer on the site, and applied in early 2015 for planning permission to build 21 townhouses on the land. This application was later withdrawn when the Council said a decision must await the outcome of the neighbourhood plan for the area.

Now a judicial review application has been filed by William Legard, seeking to quash the Council’s decision to accept the independent examiner’s recommendation and to advance the StQW Plan to a referendum. If successful, this legal action would bring progress on the StQW Plan to a halt.

Across England, there have been a number of legal challenges by developers and landowners, aimed at overturning neighbourhood plans. So far these have had little success. The Government introduced this form of planning in 2011 to allow local people to make decisions on what development should be built where, in their village, town, or neighbourhood, provided that each neighbourhood plan meets a set of tough conditions.

St Quintin estate and its neighbourhood plan

St Helen’s Gardens shops

Neighbourhood planning has proved an unexpected success at national level, although in London few such plans have yet reached the finishing line. The plan for the St Quintin Estate is the first in London to reach referendum stage while also allocating specific sites for different uses, including green space. Hence the outcome of the judicial review will be watched with interest.

The StQW Forum is optimistic that the Council will defend its decisions successfully. Developers need to talk to local residents at an early stage in their plans, and not when these have been finalised and an application about to be submitted. Neighbourhood plans are one way of ensuring that local residents have more say, within a planning system where the balance of power is weighted towards those with the deepest pockets. And no more so than in the Royal Borough, where residential land values continue to drive much of what gets built.

Henry Peterson
Chair, St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum