The High Court yesterday (18 May) ordered Lambeth council to reconsider its decision to grant planning permission to redevelop Brixton’s legendary Club 414 for shops and flats.
The planning permission, controversially granted by Lambeth council planning officers, and not councillors, under delegated powers, would have led to the loss of the club together with a flat which is the home of the club’s owner, Louise Barron. Her action was described as “bold” by her legal team, but she succeeded and won all her legal costs from the council.
The club began life in 1985 as a reggae club, hosting many famous acts. It switched to dance music in the 90s and is now one of the few specialist house and trance clubs left in London.
The council’s decision to grant permission was made despite huge public interest and hundreds of objections.
Jonathan Clay and Matt Lewin of Cornerstone Barristers, instructed by Riz Majid of Neumans Solicitors, were instructed by Louise Barron to challenge the planning permission.
They were given permission to make the challenge last December and a full hearing took place yesterday.
Both the council and the developer eventually conceded the claim. But the council would not agree to a statement of reasons that included unlawful delegation as a reason for quashing the planning permission.
Nor did the council accept that the court could make an order requiring the planning application to be re-determined by its planning committee.
The council did accept that it had failed to consider the (then emerging) Lambeth Local Plan, which was adopted just one week after the grant of permission.
Crucially, the Lambeth Local Plan recognises the importance of protecting the night-time economy in Brixton and supports leisure uses where they contribute to the vitality and viability of Brixton town centre.
Barrister Matt Lewin appeared for Louise Barron in front of Mr Justice Gilbart. In negotiations in the corridors of the Royal Courts of Justice, the council and the developer accepted Ms Barron’s case that Civil Procedure Ruke r.54.19(2)(a)(ii) allowed the court to direct the council to re-determine the application for planning permission in the light of one the claimant’s arguments which was that the delegated decision had been taken ultra vires or unlawfully.
Mr Justice Gilbart accepted the agreed order and quashed the planning permission. He also ordered the council and developer to pay the claimant’s legal costs. The application for planning permission now returns to the council to take the decision again.
“This important case will be of interest to both planning and licensing practitioners and the many people concerned by the alarming rate at which nightclubs and music venues are closing,” said the barristers’ chambers, Cornerstone.
“At the heart of this case was the council’s refusal to consider the role played by nightclubs in contributing to the culture and economy of Brixton town centre; Ms Barron’s bold case to the High Court means that, when the council comes to reconsider this application, it cannot ignore the legendary Club 414.”
The council recently defended another controversial decision to delegate planning decisions to its full-time officers – this time in connection with the Garden Bridge.
Aspects of its consultation on the proposed, and now agreed, decision to demolish and redevelop the Cressingham Gardens estate was found to be unlawful by a judicial review.
A Lambeth Council spokesman said: “The planning permission has been quashed by consent. The council will have to redetermine the application in due course.”