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  6. Court rules demolition of homes unlawful

Court rules demolition of homes unlawful

The High Court has ruled that the demolition of 118 homes by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council as part of a Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder scheme was unlawful.  

The council had acquired the flats and houses in several streets in Bensham and a former Labour Secretary of State first made a screening direction that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required then decided that EIA did not apply to demolition and so revoked the direction.

The council decided that prior approval of the details of demolition was not required and so demolition proceeded under Part 31 permitted development rights. 

Conservation group SAVE Britain’s Heritage challenged the decisions and obtained interim injunctions to halt the demolition. Those injunctions were ultimately discharged by the courts in November 2010 and demolition resumed.

However, in March this year the Court of Appeal ruled in a landmark case - brought by SAVE and which involved a scheme in Lancaster - that demolition could be covered by the EIA regime. By that stage only 38 of the homes had not been demolished. 

The current Secretary of State Eric Pickles agreed to the quashing of the decision (taken by the previous Government) to revoke the screening directions.

However, the council declined to settle the case in the light of the Lancaster ruling but instead demolished the remaining homes.

Following a contested hearing, Mr Justice Collins declared that the demolition was unlawful.

Roger Milne

9 June 2011