A planning application for homes and a hotel near Hampton Court Palace, which was won on appeal, faces a rare legal challenge by the local authority. 

Elmbridge Borough Council’s planning committee refused a controversial application by Alexpo and Network Rail Infrastructure to redevelop a 1.45-hectare site surrounding Hampton Court station for 97 homes and an 84-room hotel along with flexible retail, in July 2021. The land includes the site of the former Jolly Boatman pub.

Reasons for refusal included harm to heritage assets including the palace.

A subsequent appeal, held in June and published on July 8, was upheld and the application allowed.

Now, however, after taking legal advice, the council has announced it has served the Secretary of State with a claim for a planning statutory review to try to quash the appeal on the basis that inspector David Prentis ‘failed to give legally adequate reasons for his disagreement with the advice of Historic England’.

Historic England had objected to both the application and a previous version of it because of harm caused to the setting of Hampton Court Palace.

The site, which has an extensive history of planning battles, has extant permission for a 61-bed care home, 66 homes and a hotel.

Elmbridge borough councillor for Molesey East ward Cllr Steve Bax told Thames Tap: “When I first stood for election in East Molesey back in 2011, the land around Hampton Court Station including former Jolly Boatman site, was very much a live issue on many doorsteps – more than a decade on little has changed.

“The community in Molesey is not opposed to some development of the site but we’re also proud of our historic connection to Hampton Court Palace and keen to preserve the Arcadian views so what is approved here really matters to us.

“I thought the current scheme, which offers an element of public realm, was an improvement on the unviable extant permission but is still too big and too dominant. I led the debate in opposition at the planning committee and we secured the near unanimous refusal of the committee.

“We always knew the developer would go to appeal but I thought the council presented a strong case and it was surprising that the inspector reached the decision he did – and with such haste.

“I support Elmbridge in exploring the legal route. It is exceptional for us to do this but reflects the special status of the Jolly Boatman site and we’ll see what comes of it.

“I would add that even if the developers prevail, they would still need to navigate a way past the 1913 Act of Parliament which prohibits buildings of over 50ft in the vicinity of the palace.”

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