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Supreme Court

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 1 March 2007

I wish to update you on the implementation of the UK Supreme Court. As you know, on 7 September 2006 the Westminster City Council Planning and City Development Committee resolved unanimously to grant planning and listed building consent to the proposed renovation of Middlesex Guildhall in preparation for use as the UK Supreme Court. English Heritage fully supported the renovation plans.

Consent was granted subject to the completion of a Section 106 agreement, which was then signed by both parties on 21 November 2006. Both the planning and the listed building consents were also issued on 21 November 2006.

On 26 January 2007 an application was made for judicial review of the decision to grant listed building and planning consent for the renovation of Middlesex Guildhall. The application was made by SAVE Britain's Heritage against Westminster City Council.

The judicial review is about the way in which the issues were presented by Westminster planning officers to the committee and as a result whether there was an error in law in the way in which Westminster City Council reached its decision. It is about the process; it is not about the content of the application. I am named as an interested party in the case, and my department and I are fully supportive of Westminster City Council. Westminster City Council lodged their defence of the decision on 16 February, which we supported. The courts are now deciding whether or not there is a case to be heard.

In the interim, I have decided to resubmit the application for listed building and planning consent for the Middlesex Guildhall to Westminster City Council. This demonstrates our confidence in the original case and gives us a better control over timescales.

I believe that this step is the best way to meet the needs of all parties involved and gives the best chance to deliver the Supreme Court in October 2009. Our second application will be lodged on 9 March 2007. This will be followed by the usual statutory consultation.

The Crown Courts at Middlesex Guildhall will still close on 30 March 2007 as planned. New courtrooms are being built at Isleworth Crown Court and will be available in autumn 2008. In the mean time, transition plans are in place to maintain the number of sitting days across London Crown Courts.

As announced in my Statement of 17 October 2006, I will update you on costs once we have reached financial close with our preferred bidders—Kier Group plc for the Guildhall renovation and Osborne’s for the Isleworth development.