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Court of Appeal quashes "yuppie flats" planning application

23 June 2010

The Court of Appeal has quashed a planning application for the regeneration of a deprived area of North London because the council did not consider specific diversity requirements under race relations laws.

Ruling in R (on the application of Janet Harris) v London Borough of Haringey [2010] EWCA Civ 703, Lord Justice Pill said the borough had failed to discharge its duty to “promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups” when granting permission for a regeneration project.

Resident Mita Patel, whose business and family home would disappear if the scheme goes ahead, said the court vindicated campaigners’ calls to the council to take account of the negative impact on ethnic minorities “were their businesses and homes replaced by yuppie flats and chain stores”.

The case was brought by local resident Janet Harris, who argued that the proposed development by Grainger (Seven Sisters) Ltd was given permission in breach of section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976, which requires local authorities to “have due regard to… the need to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups”.

The development, at Wards Corner in London’s Haringey, would have led to the departure of local shopkeepers and families, most of whom are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, including traders from Turkish, Cypriot, Colombian and Afro Caribbean influences. The indoor market has 36 units, a large majority of which are occupied by traders from Latin America or Spanish speaking countries.

The court noted that nowhere in any of the consultation document had there been a reference to the section 71 duty, but it accepted that the duty could be discharged indirectly.

“I can only commend the thoroughness of the report [by the local authority], its focus on regeneration and its expression of concern for the future of displaced market traders,” said Pill LJ. “I find it impossible, however, to find any focus on the substance of the section 71 duty when the complex issues to be decided by the council’s committee are set out and debated.”

The appeal judge, however, with whom Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Sullivan agreed, said the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups should not be confused with the promotion of the interests of a particular racial group or groups.

Although “the two will usually be interrelated”, the duty “operates in a more nuanced way than has at times been advocated”, Pill LJ said.

“The lack of focus in this case has to some extent affected all parties,” he said. “Some of the contrary submissions appear to me to be based on the premise that the section requires promotion of the interests of a racial minority or racial minorities. It does not; the requirements are of a specific nature… Neither aim is necessarily achieved by a proposal which may promote the economic interests of a particular racial group, even a deprived group.”

While praising some of the council’s intentions, the judge said that it had not addressed specifically the requirements under section 71.

Having due regard to the objectives in section 71 did not require active promotion of equal opportunities but at least an analysis of the material submitted in this respect, which did not take place in this case.

Quashing the permission, the judge added he reached his conclusion “with some regret” because there appeared to have been consensus in favour of regeneration of the area. He also commented that significant resources had been expended on the project and that the council had otherwise followed “a thorough and fair procedure” leading to “a democratic decision”.

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Conveyancing Local government