North Westgate developer loses High Court battle to halt plans for rival venture

An image shows how the North Westgate development could appear.
An image shows how the North Westgate development could appear.
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The firm behind the planned £130 million cinema-led North Westgate development has failed in a High Court bid to overturn planning approval for a rival cinema-led venture.

Hawksworth Securities, which is behind the North Westgate project, claimed at the court in London that a cinema-anchored development in the neighbouring Queensgate shopping centre would result in an overkill of cinemas in Peterborough.

Hawksworth’s lawyers told the court that there was only a need for one cinema in Peterborough.

The court action came after both development proposals were given planning approval by Peterborough City Council last October.

At a two day hearing last month Hawksworth’s counsel Hereward Phillpot QC told Mrs Justice Lang, one of the country’s top judges: “There is only sufficient demand to support the development of one new cinema in Peterborough City Centre.”

He added that if the Queensgate plan was given the green light, their project would “be rendered unviable and will not be implemented”.

However, in a complex written ruling today which ran to nearly 12,500 words the judge said that the council was entitled to reach its decision to grant planning consent for the Queensgate plan.

She said: “I am unable to accept the claimant’s submission that the competition which the Queensgate scheme represented to the Westgate scheme, and thus the potential threat to the current plans for the regeneration of the North Westgate area, could be properly characterised as ‘planning harm’.

“The Queensgate scheme was, of itself, in accordance with planning policy and had no planning disadvantages and the North Westgate Opportunity Area had not been prioritised in the development plan.”

The plan for a leisure development in Queensgate will include a multi-screen cinema along with eating and drinking establishments in the Queensgate Shopping Centre.

Hawksworth’s North Westgate development, which will cost more than three times the Queensgate plan will, if it goes ahead, provide for retail, offices, a hotel, residential units, community uses and leisure uses including a cinema.

Afterwards, Councillor Chris Harper, chair of Peterborough City Council’s planning and environmental protection committee, said: “We are pleased that the judge has dismissed Hawksworth’s claim that we acted inappropriately and upheld the decision of the planning committee.

“The judge confirmed what we have maintained from the start, that the decisions made by the planning committee were sound and the decision to grant planning permission for the Queensgate scheme was not wrong in law.

“The judge also commented that the council adopted a fair and reasonable approach and that the advice given by officers was comprehensive and in accordance with the law and standard practice.”

Councillor John Holdich, leader of the council, said: “The judge’s decision now gives the green light to new development in our city centre which is good news for our residents and will make our city an even more attractive prospect for visitors.

“We remain committed to the comprehensive redevelopment of North Westgate and will continue to talk with all landowners about how we can work together to regenerate the site.

“These are exciting times for our city with numerous projects coming forward including Fletton Quays and the former district hospital site, following on from recent development in the Station Quarter.”

Mr Breach told councillors at a meeting of the council’s planning committee today (Tuesday) that he will not be appealing against the High Court ruling.