(P.61) Euro blow for Crystal Palace multiplex

Commercial Property section, Evening Standard 13 November 2000

Mira Bar-Hillel - finds Bromley accused of giving 'flawed' planning consent

THE future of the multiplex development in Crystal Palace Park, hotly opposed by local residents and Ken Livingstone, is now seriously in doubt.

Following an 18-month investigation of a detailed complaint by the Crystal Palace Campaign, the European Commission has sent a formal notice to the Government concerning Bromley Council's failure to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project before it gave it planning permission in 1998.

EIAs have been required by European law since 1988 and are becoming a growing factor in UK planning law following some key judgements, most notably the House of Lords quashing of a Fulham Football Club permission over the absence of an EIA.

The Commission letter said there appeared to be "considerable flaws" in the environmental consultants' report on which Bromley relied when deciding that there was no need for an EIA.

It also questions Bromley's decision last month to approve so called "reserved matters" of final detail, as these details might have additional environmental impact which has not been assessed.

The Commission's action directly challenges a High Court ruling last April, which dismissed an application for judicial review by a local woman, Diane Barker, saying "there does not appear to me any conflict with provisions of the European Directive". Ms Barker is currently waiting for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Philip Kolvin, chairman of the Crystal Palace Campaign, said:

"The Commission's formal notice to the Government represents a huge show of support for the campaign's position. No planning authority could seriously have believed that to build the largest cinema multiplex in the South of England, and the largest rooftop car park in the United Kingdom, at the top of a strategic historic park would not create a significant environmental effect.

"I believe the developer would be most unwise to commit funds to building anything following a permission whose legality is now under question in Europe.

"We hope that the Government will now concede that Bromley's granting of planning permission was unlawful, so bringing an end to this unhappy episode. If it does not, it could be sued by the Commission in the European Court of Justice."

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