Crystal Palace challenge given go-ahead

Roger Pearson says the architectural integrity of the site of the Great Exhibition is soon to be investigated by the High Court.

The plan for a massive multiplex cinema on the site of London's old Crystal Palace – which was destroyed by fire in 1936 – is to be the subject of a major High Court probe later this year.

Plans for a new glass and steel building on the 12-acre site have run up against a legal challenge from protesters who claim the planned new building does not reflect the style of the original Crystal Palace. Protesters have won the right to seek judicial review of Bromley Borough Council's original planning consent for the scheme.

Developers London and Regional Properties are set to pay £6m to lease the site from the council, but the immediate plans will have to be put on hold until the challenge is heard later this year.

The protesters failed in their initial bid to block the scheme in July, when they claimed that the proposals did not comply with legislation drawn up to make sure that any new building would reflect the style of the original Crystal Palace.

Their application to challenge Bromley Borough Council's approval of the scheme, which would include an 18-20 cinema multiplex, was dismissed by Mr Justice Sullivan who said the protesters did not have an arguable case.

However, at a recent vacation hearing, three Appeal Court judges overruled Mr Justice Sullivan's decision.

Lord Justices Brown, Auld and Chadwick held that it was indeed arguable that the proposed complex did not reflect the architectural style of Joseph Paxton's original Crystal Palace building – a legal requirement under the 1990 Crystal Palace Act which regulates any proposed development of the site.

Lord Justice Brown did issue a warning to the protesters who packed the courtroom that they should not be unduly optimistic over the eventual outcome of the case, but leave was given for the legal challenge to continue.

He said there were powerful arguments on the side of the developers and it was far from certain, or even likely, that the planning decision would eventually be quashed.