Wards Corner legal victory

July 5, 2010

Equality considerations were unlawfully ignored in approval of multi million pound development

Campaigners fighting to prevent demolition of businesses and homes on the Wards Corner site over Seven Sisters tube station were today celebrating victory in an important Judicial Review test case. The Court of Appeal handed down a ruling that Haringey Council had acted unlawfully by not properly considering the impact on Tottenham’s diverse local community of planned new housing and retail developments. The case is the first to decide that local authorities must assess impact in race equality terms before authorising major developments.

Giving the lead judgement, Lord Justice Pill said:

“On the material before the council, there was sufficient potential impact on equality of opportunity between persons of different racial groups, and on good relations between such groups, to require that the impact of the decision on those aspects of social and economic life be consideredÂ…There was no analysis of the material before the council in the context of the [Council’s equality] duty. I would allow the appeal and quash the permission.”

Janet Harris, the local campaigner who brought the challenge said today:

“I am delighted with the outcome of the case. Developments of this kind erode the social fabric of communities like mine in Tottenham. If they are not checked, people will eventually look around and wonder why the place where they live is no longer special and vibrant.”

Mital Patel, one of the campaigners whose family would lose their home and livelihood if the development goes ahead, today said:

“The Council was told in no uncertain terms that it needed to assess impact taking into account the opportunities that would be denied to ethnic minorities in the community were their businesses and homes replaced by yuppie flats and chain stores. It ignored this request. The Court of Appeal has agreed that this undermined the planning decision, root and branch. The community is hopeful that the Council will review matters and open its mind to allowing a development that safeguards and celebrates what is unique about Haringey, rather than persisting in trying to replicate what can be found in shopping centres up and down the country.”

John Halford from Bindmans LLP who is representing the campaign today said:

“The Council’s attitude towards the local community was quite scandalous. It flagrantly breached the legal duty to weigh the impact of its decisions in terms of equality of opportunity and community good relations, a duty that Parliament specifically imposed to dispel institutional complacency over race equality. This ruling sends the clearest signal that, however persuasive a wealthy developer may be, its voice must not drown out those of local people.”

The case was supported by the Legal Services Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Its barrister, Helen Mountfield QC appeared in the Court of Appeal alongside Ms Harris’s barrister, David Wolfe. She argued that if the Council’s arguments were right:

“it would mean that the Council’s Race Equality Policies never actually had any impact on the ground, at the point when the actual decisions which affected people’s lives were made.”

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