A legal challenge to plans for the regeneration of Crystal Palace Park was dismissed by the High Court. The plans involved proposals for new housing on an area of Metropolitan Open Land. One ground of the challenge concerned the Secretary of State’s decision that a number of conditions were potentially invalid, and so should be dealt with as section 106 obligations instead. The concern was that conditions requiring payments towards park improvement works constituted taxation and therefore required a legal basis. However, the court found that regardless of the validity of the conditions, planning obligations were a reliable and alternative mechanism for securing the desired benefit, and were not being used as a device for circumventing planning policy.
The court also rejected the argument that outline planning permission, which is only possible as a way forward for the erection of buildings, had been wrongly granted for the entire development. The planning application was valid as a hybrid application for outline permission for the erection of buildings and for full permission for landscaping, access and change of use of land related to those buildings.
A further ground of the challenge concerned the harm of bat commuting routes over the park. In considering this harm, the Secretary of State was held not to be exercising nature conservation functions under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. His duty was a more limited one under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. He could therefore rely on the approval of Natural England of the development plans, and could grant permission on the basis of imperative reasons of overriding public interest.
(1) Anthony Elliott (2) John Payne v (1) Secretary of State for Communities & Local Governance (2) London Development Agency (3) Bromley London Borough Council (2012) EWHC 1574