The High Court has ruled that the demolition of 118 homes by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council was unlawful. As part of a Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder scheme the Council had acquired the flats and houses in several streets in Bensham. The Secretary of State had firstly made a screening direction that Environmental Impact Assessment was required. He then decided that EIA did not apply to demolition and so revoked the direction.
The Council decided that prior approval of the details of demolition was not required and so demolition proceeded under Part 31 permitted development rights. SAVE Britain's Heritage challenged the decisions and obtained interim injunctions to halt the demolition. Those injunctions were ultimately discharged by the Courts in November 2010.
Demolition resumed but on 25 March 2011 the Court of Appeal ruled in R(SAVE Britain's Heritage) v Secretary of State (the SAVE Lancaster case) that demolition was capable of being a project within the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.
By that stage 38 of the homes had not been demolished. The Secretary of State agreed to the quashing of the decision (taken by the previous Government) to revoke the screening directions. However the Council declined settle the case in the light of SAVE Lancaster but instead demolished the remaining homes. Following a contested hearing, Mr Justice Collins declared that the demolition was unlawful.
Richard Harwood appeared for SAVE Britain's Heritage.