Published On: 17th January 2024

“This judgement should serve as a warning to developers”

Today, council tenant and campaigner Aysen Dennis has won her Judicial Review claim in the High Court against Southwark Council and the developer Notting Hill Genesis (NHG).

Aysen has been fighting against the demolition of the Aylesbury council estate and has been working with PILC lawyers Alex and Saskia as part of PILC’s gentrification project. She’s lived at Aylesbury for over 30 years.

Today is a win for Aysen and her community who seek accountability and justice from the developer NHG and Southwark Council as they work to demolish the Aylesbury estate.

She says that Southwark Council was allowing NHG “to do what they want through the back door.” She added “we demand social housing, not social cleansing.”

Developers so often assume that the residents who live in the homes they want to destroy aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing. They want unlimited power to shift and change plans as they please – but this ruling shows that this is not the case.

We’re hopeful that today’s ruling has far reaching consequences in favour of estate residents across the country who feel powerless to affect change on the land they call home. 

This judgement should serve as a warning to developers who disregard historical masterplans and the promises they make to communities in the process of gentrification.

The legal case

In 2015, planning permission was granted to demolish and rebuild the Aylesbury Estate. Within that planning permission is a masterplan formed in consultation with the community that sets out the parameters of the regeneration.

However, NHG made a ‘drop in’ application on the site, which went far beyond the original plans by increasing the height of all private tower blocks overlooking Burgess Park. They did this using a ‘s96A non-material amendment’ to add the word ‘severable’ to the description of the outline permission.

By approving the amendment to the outline permission, Southwark Council awarded the developer further, extensive power, that would make it much easier for them to ‘mix and match’ new planning permissions across the Estate which differ from the original masterplan that was formed in consultation with the community.

Southwark Council and NHG tried to argue that the Outline Permission was already ‘severable’ and that the amendment made under s.96A was only intended to confirm this explicitly in the original Outline Planning Permission.

How Aysen won

Aysen argued three things:

  1. that the Outline Permission was not severable
  2. that the amendment to make it severable cannot be treated as non-material
  3. that the purpose and effect of adding the word ‘severable’ was to change the rights granted by the Outline Permission – specially in this instance the ability to exceed parameters set by the outline permission, such as the maximum building heights.

The judge, Mr Justice Holgate, found that “With respect” Southwark Council and NHG’s submission to the High Court “lacked coherence.” 

He agreed with Aysen that the original permission was not severable, and therefore could not be amended through a s 96 non-material application. This decision was therefore quashed.

Putting power back to the community

This is an important judgement for housing campaigners across the country, as large estate redevelopments often unfold from Outline Planning Permissions over time – or ‘phased’ like this. This case scrutinises the method in which developers use ‘drop in’ applications to deviate from what was promised to residents.

You can read more about the background of the case and why the claim arose here.

Want to talk to us about a case? Contact us here.

Developers so often assume that the residents who live in the homes they want to destroy aren’t paying attention to what their doing. They want unlimited power to shift and change plans as they please. But PILC supports local residents and campaigns to shift the power away from privatisation, and put it back in the hands of the communities. Donate to support PILC’s work in the fight against gentrification.