The news that proposals for the redevelopment of Shepherds Bush Market have been abandoned is a salutary reminder that there are numerous hurdles such schemes need to overcome, any one of which, even the least expected, can trip the developer up and put a premature end to the project.
On the face of it, the redevelopment proposals for the market had everything going for them: the proposed developer had funding behind it; the local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham LBC had recognised the importance of a redevelopment of the market both in local plan policy and a specific planning framework setting out the Council’s objectives in some detail. Perhaps unsurprisingly outline planning permission had been granted. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as it turned out, the compulsory purchase order (CPO) could, and did, go spectacularly wrong! Before the Court of Appeal’s decision in this case, I, and many other experienced practitioners, would have told you that, once planning permission has been granted, a CPO to secure its implementation is, if not a formality, very difficult for objectors to resist. In most cases, I would still stick to that view. In this case, I reckoned without human fallibility.
The CPO, as might be expected, attracted a large number of objectors, not least among the market traders and was considered by an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State at a Public Inquiry. The Council’s planning framework emphasised the importance of ensuring that the scheme “…crucially maintains existing traders and provides them with the security to ensure that the market can continue to operate without interruption and serve existing customers and communities.”
However, the Inspector was not satisfied that the proposals contained sufficient safeguards to ensure that market traders would be able to afford the rents for the future market stalls and therefore concluded that the scheme failed to meet one of its own key objectives and recommended that the CPO should not be confirmed.
Two factors in particular led to her conclusion: first, a rent freeze had been agreed during the redevelopment but there were no details of what rent levels would be after completion of the development and, second, there was no indication of the sizes of the stalls – details of which were left by the planning permission to be submitted before commencement of development. As retail rents are calculated on a per square foot basis, without knowing the sizes of the stalls, there was no way of knowing whether rents would be affordable to existing traders.
The Secretary of State considered the Inspector’s report but did not agree with the Inspector on this point and confirmed the CPO. Judicial review proceedings were brought by the market traders’ association in relation to that decision. The Court of Appeal quashed the decision to confirm the CPO because the Secretary of State did not give any reason for disagreeing with the Inspector’s conclusion. Rather than go back to square one, the developer has announced it is pulling out of the deal.
Where that leaves the proposal to redevelop the market remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the market traders have been rewarded for their perseverance and attention to detail.