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Holborn Studios wins High Court battle

14 November 2017

We are delighted to hear that Hackney Council lost the High Court planning battle – planning permission for Galliard Homes proposed demolition of iconic London site ruled unlawful and quashed by the High Court. 

Judge John Howell QC (sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court) on Friday ruled that Hackney Council unlawfully granted planning permission to developers Galliard Homes for a scheme that included the demolition of Holborn Studios, one of the world’s leading photographic studio complexes and a major employer in the area. The mixed-use residential and commercial development offered zero affordable or social housing despite containing 50 canal side apartments.

Holborn Studios has been a tenant of the site, on the banks of the Regents Canal near Old Street, for 28 years. Their tenancy has seen a derelict warehouse space converted into a thriving studio complex and media hub. All manner of iconic images have been captured within the historic buildings.

We caught up with Mike McCartney, General Manager at Holborn Studios:

Congratulations on the verdict! What does this mean for you and your family?

It’s a temporary relief. Planning applications have posed a threat to our business for many years, to get this quashed is proof that our voices have been heard.

Were you surprised at the verdict?

Not overly, our arguments were solid - we had firm belief in our case, and we have complete faith in our legal team. We were more surprised back in November 2016 when permission was initially granted by Hackney Council!

How do you keep up with the ever-changing photography industry?

We make sure we keep an eye on all developments in the industry have great working relationships with all the major industry suppliers, for example we’re pleased to supply space for all Phase One’s courses for learning how to use kit. We have established excellent relationships with photographers, agents and creative teams over the years and enjoy delivering brilliant service whatever the shoot requires, seeing them come back year on year always feels good.

What are Holborn’s Studios plans for the future?

Remain here for as long as possible! We have lots of ideas about growing the business but for now, we’ll concentrate on staying here, consolidating what we have and ensuring a future for our studios, staff, clients and residents.

More about the legal case

The planning application by Galliard Homes relied heavily on the proposed retention of Holborn Studios, but it in fact made it impossible for Holborn Studios to continue operating from the site.  In response to objections from Holborn Studios and others, the planning application was substantially amended, but Holborn Studios and the public at large were not consulted on these amendments (which included the removal of all affordable housing and structural changes that were wrongly stated to resolve Holborn Studios’ issues).  Further, the planning officer’s report relied on ‘two letters of interest from two photographic/ film studios ... which state that the proposed studio spaces are workable’.  When Holborn Studios asked for these letters of interest, which were not on the Council’s website, the planning officer provided these only 2 ½ hours before the planning committee meeting and heavily redacted them so that any all identifying information was removed and the credibility of these letters could not be established by Holborn Studios.  The Council refused to adjourn the planning committee so Holborn Studios was unable to make proper representations on the amendments to the planning application or the credibility of the letters of interest.

Holborn Studios accordingly sought a Judicial Review of the grant of planning permission to Galliard Homes’ on the grounds that 1) it was unfair of Hackney Council not to consult Holborn Studios on the amendments made to the original planning application  and then to refuse to adjourn the planning committee meeting so that Holborn Studios could properly respond to the amendments  and 2) it was unfair of Hackney Council not to disclose the unredacted correspondence from the ‘two photographic/film studios’ and the Council acted under an error of fact as to the nature of those correspondents.

The Judge agreed with Holborn Studio’s arguments and ruled that Hackney’s Councils actions were unlawful.  He found that the procedure followed in relation to the amendments to the planning application deprived Holborn Studios and others of a fair opportunity to make such representations as they might have wanted to make and that materially prejudiced Holborn Studios.  The Judge also found that the failure by the Council to enable Holborn Studios to inspect the two letters of interest from the date they were submitted to the Council and in an un-redacted form substantially prejudiced Holborn Studios and was unfair and unlawful as they were unable to make any representations about the authors’ qualifications to make such statements and the weight that could reasonably be attached to any view expressed in the letters.

Holborn Studios were represented in court by solicitor Susan Ring of Harrison Grant and barrister Richard Harwood QC who, despite facing arguments from legal teams for both Hackney Council and Galliard Homes, successfully proved that the Council’s actions were illegal and won the case on both grounds claimed. Hackney Council will now have to pay Holborn Studios legal costs.

A separate Judicial Review of the planning application, brought by Mr Del Brenner of the Regents Network, was successful on the ground that the public at large should have been re-consulted on the amendments to the planning application.

Galliard Homes has recently submitted another planning application, almost identical to the first, the validity of which will now be thrown into question. Statements within the application claiming that the plans were drawn up in consultation with Holborn Studios have been confirmed in court as being false and proposed studio spaces in the basement of the new development have been demonstrated to be unfit for purpose.

Holborn Studios would appreciate you signing the objection to the latest planning application, in this link:


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