Campaigners fighting the Oaks Shopping Centre redevelopment plans are hoping to take Ealing Council back to the High Court over an issue they say may be of national importance.
It comes after the Oaks Action Group’s case was rejected by High Court judge Mrs Justice Patterson On November 14.
Among other arguments, she dismissed the claim the decision to grant planning permission was flawed because the town hall’s ruling Labour administration pulled councillor Abdullah Gulaid off the planning committee ahead of the meeting.
The campaigners say this was an attempt to fix the vote because he disliked the scheme but the judge said there was no evidence he had a ‘closed mind’ on the issue.
The judge ruled the selection of the committee members, who passed the development by a majority of seven to six in October 2013, was ‘part of the democratically elected political process’. The campaigners are challenging this, saying it could set a harmful precedent of fixing committees to predetermine decisions.
Councillors within a planning committee are supposed to act like judges making individual decisions and are not allowed to be influenced by factors outside of the evidence presented in planning meetings.
Oaks Action Group spokesman Doug Carnegie said the judgement could be used by ruling parties across the country to justify political interference in planning decisions.
He said the campaigners’ lawyers Leigh Day are ‘spitting chips’ over the decision and added: “This takes us back to the dark ages. There’s such a large national principle at stake.”
The Oaks Action Group say they are keen to see the centre in Acton High Street redeveloped but would like to see a better scheme which would have less impact on the light of neighbouring homes, connect Acton High Street with Churchfield Road and open up St Mary’s burial ground and other public space. They have been backed by celebrities including architect George Clarke and actress Emilia Fox.
Developers Acton Regeneration Company reject the criticisms, pointing out the £40 million project will provide 142 new homes, better open spaces and shops, as well as jobs for 500 people.
A council spokeswoman said: “We are pleased a High Court judge has upheld the original decision to reject an application for a judicial review of the council’s decision to grant planning permission for the Oaks development.
“The judge rejected the claims against the council and confirmed we acted appropriately in granting planning permission to transform the run-down Oaks shopping centre into a Waitrose and much needed new homes for the area.”