This is the developer’s third planning application for this site, this year. The first was rejected by the committee after the Council received over 1000 individual letters of objection (against 14 in support) and 5039 petition signatories, on the grounds that it would have substantial adverse impact on the biodiversity of Abney Park Cemetery.
The second application contained only minor amendments to the first application and was made concurrently with an appeal against the first decision. Despite acknowledging just weeks before, that the development would have a substantial adverse impact on the biodiversity of Abney Park, the second application was approved (without adoption of an EIA Screening Opinion) after sub-committee members were led to believe that if they did not approve it the developer would likely win an appeal. It is our contention that this decision was taken without due regard to the law and local planning policies and as such local residents raised funds to judicially review the decision (CO/13423/2013).
On service of the judicial review claim, the developer withdrew their appeal to avoid inquiry by the planning inspectorand has now lodged a third application. This application is identical to the granted application and its purpose is to avoid the legal examination of the approved application and implicitly recognises the merits of the legal claim.
Local residents fear that the Council's position is now hopelessly compromised, with sub-committee members, by their own admission, making decisions on suppositions of what might have happened at an appeal that the developer has now abandoned. There is a real danger that if this third application is heard locally, under clear pressure to reach the same conclusion then the whole planning process will be brought into disrepute (something that is more than just a local issue).
The local authority may rightfully (and would ordinarily) refuse to determine an application that has already been determined We urge them to adopt this course with this application. .
Furthermore, this application raises complex environmental issues, unprecedented in Hackney’s modern history and in the context of a new planning framework where the relationships between it and long established policy are evidently little understood. The historic Abney Park Cemetery and Nature Reserve (containing the grave of William Booth among many others of national interest) is one of the 'magnificent seven' Victorian cemeteries established following an act of Parliament in1832. In 2009 it was listed by English Heritage as an historic park and garden at risk from neglect and decay. It is of London-wide importance as a Nature Reserve and is currently undergoing review by Natural England for possible SSSI status. Any damage to its unique biodiversity, or the conservation area that it is part of, is of planning significance not only to the whole of London but to the nation as a whole.
We therefore ask the Secretary of State to call-in this application and urge Hackney Council to accept that it is essential that this application is referred to the Planning Inspectorate for adjudication.