Save Our South Bank announce intention to start judicial review against Michael Gove’s decision to approve scheme last month

Campaigners have said their will launch a legal challenge against Michael Gove’s decision to approve Make’s £700m redevelopment of ITV Studios on London’s South Bank.

Save Our South Bank (SOSB), a collective of campaign groups which oppose the controversial office scheme, have until next Wednesday to hand in their legal submission to the High Court.

The scheme, described by SOSB as “The Slab”, was approved by Lambeth council and Sadiq Khan in 2022 but called in by Gove’s predecessor Greg Clark.

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Make’s proposals for the 72 Upper Ground site, described as a ‘Slab’ by opponents

It then went to a public inquiry where it was opposed by SOSB but given a recommendation to approve by the planning inspector, which was backed by Gove last month.

Designed for developers CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate, it is one of the biggest construction projects in the capital and would see ITV’s former 24-storey studios at 72 Upper Ground demolished and replaced by two blocks of 26 and 13 storeys.

But it has stoked controversy due to its scale and its position close to several post-war listed buildings, including the grade II*-listed National Theatre and the grade II-listed IBM Building.

SOSB is now seeking to raise £15,000 for the legal challenge, which is the same route used by Marks & Spencer in the retailer’s recent successful appeal of Gove’s rejection of its plans to redevelop its flagship Oxford Street store.

>> Also read: What does the High Court’s ruling mean for M&S’ Oxford Street plans? Lawyers give their views

The campaign group is asserting that Gove’s decision on 72 Upper Ground was “legally flawed” because it contradicts Lambeth council’s local plan, which had zoned the area for mixed-use projects. Make’s proposals for the site would be almost entirely office space.

The group is also arguing that Gove’s decision was politically inconsistent, as just a week after issuing his decision on the scheme the communities secretary announced changes to the NPPF to prioritise brownfield sites for housing.

The existing former ITV building could be refurbished to provide 200 homes and 500,000sq ft of offices, according to SOSB, an approach which the group said would also save a huge amount of embodied carbon.

Michael Ball, who spoke on behalf of Save Our South Bank (SOSB) at last year’s inquiry, said: “The ‘Slab’ development not only threatens the enjoyment of millions walking the South Bank, as well as multiple protected views of national heritage, but also undermines efforts to address our city’s housing crisis while needlessly emitting over 100,000 tonnes of CO2. It is an extraordinary feat of self-harm.”


Source: Shutterstock

The existing tower at 72 Upper Ground, ITV’s former studios

He added: “Gove’s decision, following the High Court decision to quash refusal for the demolition of M&S buildings at Oxford St, threatens to render toothless vital policy reducing carbon through the circular economy and recycling buildings.

“Our legal challenge may be the last chance to retrieve this catastrophe.”

Unlike planning appeals, judicial reviews depend on factual errors within the report to be considered worthy of being taken forward, which is usually decided by a judge either on paper or at a preliminary hearing.

After the official submission of legal documents, the High Court has three months to decide whether there is a case for a judicial review.

If it decides there is, it will then book in a hearing which would likely take place this autumn and last just one or two days. If the court decides to quash Gove’s ruling, the government will then need to make the decision again.

Lendlease was appointed to carry out the main construction contract on the scheme just days before Gove’s initial intervention in 2022 just as McGee was set to start demolition work.

The firm pipped Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O’Rourke to the deal with others working on the job including QS T&T Alinea, landscape architect Grant Associates and engineer Arup.

The plot was bought by Mitsubishi and CO-RE for close to £150m in November 2019.