High Court rules in favour of free school in Mill Hill

Adam Dawson (Photo: John Rifkin)

Adam Dawson (Photo: John Rifkin)

A legal appeal against Barnet Council’s decision to approve plans for a new Jewish free school in Mill Hill was dismissed last Friday.

The High Court application for judicial review into the planning authority’s approval of Etz Chaim Primary School in March 2012 was made by Daniel Coleman on behalf of 1,000 disabled and elderly local residents.

The Jewish claimant, who suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome (a chromosome abnormality), said he was dependent on the recreational Wyevale Garden Centre on Daws Lane in Mill Hill, before it was demolished to make way for the new school site.

His legal team argued that no other nearby locality would replace the garden centre and the council’s planning authority had not fully considered the impact of the loss of the centre on local residents.

However, the application was dismissed by Mr Justice Lindblom whose judgment read: “In my view, the officers’ report displays a coherent approach to the requirements of the due regard duty in this case.”

Mr Justice Lindblom also noted that school trustees purchased the 102-year-long lease in 2011 after “Wyevale had approached the trust as a willing vendor, prepared to sell the site at book value because the garden centre was, or was becoming, unviable.”

The school, which has been operating at nearby council premises for 76 three-to-six-year-old students, is now free to continue building and intends to open the site next summer.

Responding to the judgment, Adam Dawson, the school’s chair of governors, said there was “little more to be said. The High Court’s emphatic judgment speaks for itself with the judge dismissing each and every argument the school’s objectors brought.

“Far more exciting than the ill-conceived litigation is that we have received 130 applications for our 26-place 2013 nursery class. The school continues to go from strength to strength.”

However, Mr Coleman said he was “devastated” by the decision. “[The school’s] use has been paid for in the suffering and isolation of me and other disabled and elderly neighbours who live nearby.”

Solicitor Gaon Hart, who acted for Mr Coleman pro bono, confirmed that his client’s legal costs of £60,000 have been paid after Mr Coleman delved into his life savings and received contributions from family members, friends and neighbours.

“The other parties have been ordered to file their cost order by 11 January — I believe it’s around £70,000 each and it’s likely that Daniel will have to pay their costs. He’s on benefits, so the court should take that into account,” Mr Gaon concluded.

Last updated: 3:56pm, December 27 2012