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Westferry Printworks: Secretary of State Accepts “Apparent Bias” in His Decision and Consents to Judgment

Melissa Murphy

A consent order in the Westferry Printworks case means that there will be a redetermination of the 1,500 housing unit appeal proposal for the former Daily Telegraph/Daily Express printworks site. Both Tower Hamlets and the Mayor/Greater London Authority had challenged the Secretary of State’s decision to grant planning permission, contrary to the recommendation of the inspector, who had held a 3 week public inquiry. The Inspector had found harm to the setting of Tower Bridge and that the scheme failed to provide the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing, key aspects of the GLA’s case. 

The consent order reflects the fact that in pre-action correspondence, the Secretary of State explained that the decision letter was issued on 14 January 2020, rather than the following day, so that it would be issued before Tower Hamlets adopted its new local plan and CIL charging schedule. He accepted that the timing of the decision letter, thereby avoiding a substantial financial liability which would otherwise fall on the developer, would lead the fair minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility that he was biased in favour of the developer. He accepted that the decision letter was unlawful by reason of apparent bias and should be quashed. The Mayor/GLA’s challenge was therefore academic, but he agreed to pay their costs. 

Melissa Murphy represented the Mayor/GLA at the inquiry and was instructed on the High Court challenge. 

Press coverage: Planning magazine.