Icon building planning appeal quashed after High Court review

 the Icon building in Stevenage

The future of the Icon building remains uncertain after a High Court review revealed there was factual errors in the Secretary of State's decision to - Credit: Google

Plans to build more than 500 flats in the place of Stevenage's Icon building have been quashed once again, following a High Court review.

Proposals by The Hill Group to deliver seven apartment blocks comprising 576 dwellings were refused by Stevenage Borough Council's planning committee in March 2020, on the grounds that "its height, design and appearance would result in an incongruous form of development which would be harmful to the visual amenities of the area".

However, developers appealed to the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government - Robert Jenrick - and requested a hearing with a planning inspector. The appeal was successful and subsequently, planning permission was granted. 

Now, a High Court judicial review has resulted in the Secretary of State - now Michael Gove - conceding, acknowledging flaws in the appeal approval. The decision was finalised yesterday.

It was agreed that "the Inspector made an error of fact when he stated that the application site formed part of the council's five year housing trajectory", and that it was also incorrect that "if the appeal was dismissed and no other alternative site were to come forwards the council would be unable to demonstrate a five year housing land supply".

The case will not proceed to a hearing in the High Court, and the next steps are for the Planning Inspectorate to consider what action is now appropriate.  This may involve a further public hearing into this case. 

Stevenage Borough Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, Cllr John Gardner said: “I am very pleased that the decision to redevelop the Icon building has been quashed. 

"We worked hard to make a strong legal case that the decision of the government’s Planning Inspector was flawed, and could lead to the risk of poor quality development in Stevenage as a result.  I am pleased that the Secretary of State has accepted our case. 

"The application to redevelop the unique Icon building was overwhelmingly rejected by the Stevenage Borough Planning and Development Committee in March 2020.  

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"The committee concluded that the height, design and appearance of the proposed development would be out of character for the area, and raised concerns over the impact on local infrastructure.  

"As I’ve said previously, there is a great deal of local affection for the building and it is vital to have a high quality and iconic solution in the future.  We will continue to press this case to the government’s Planning Inspectorate, and to the developer.

"We await further information from the Planning Inspectorate regarding the next steps they are taking, and how this application will be reconsidered.”