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Freud’s owner loses last bid to halt £75m Blavatnik plan
CONTROVERSIAL: An artist’s impression of The Blavatnik School of Government next to Freud’s bar.Below, David Freud
A BUSINESSMAN who took Oxford City Council to court over a controversial £75m building has seen his bid to stop the plan thrown out.
A High Court judge rejected David Freud’s bid to launch a judicial review of the decision to approve the Blavatnik School of Government building in Walton Street.
The owner of the Freud bar next to the Blavatnik site claimed members of the committee which approved the scheme had undeclared conflicts of interest and said the project breached planning rules.
But at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed his claims.
Speaking after the hearing Mr Freud, who had an earlier attempt at a judicial review rejected by a judge sitting in chambers, said: “I thought the judge was fair.
“I brought the case originally because I thought what had happened was wrong and the way the decision was taken was wrong.
“I still feel that way, but I can see that the way the council dealt with everything meant they had covered their bases excellently to get away with it.”
The Blavatnik School of Government, which is part of Oxford University, was founded with a £75m donation from American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik.
Its new building on Walton Street was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, who also designed the Tate Modern.
But the modern design caused controversy, particularly given that the 22.5m-high building flouts the city council’s guideline that no building within 1,200m of Carfax can be taller than 18.2m.
Setting out his case Mr Freud, who represented himself, said: “It is quite clear that the Oxford skyline is a heritage asset and now a drum full of light is being put into it.
“I am asking what the material consideration was which justified breaching that planning policy, because if there wasn’t one it shouldn’t have happened.”
But Mr Justice Ouseley said local authorities were free to disregard some aspects of their policies in some circumstances.
He also dismissed Mr Freud’s claims that some members of the west area planning committee which approved the scheme had undisclosed interests.
These included councillors Colin Cook and Bob Price – the former of whom works as chief technician at the university’s medical sciences teaching centre, while the latter occasionally lectures for the university.
But Mr Justice Ouseley said this was disclosed in the register of interests and did not merit being disclosed at the meeting.
Mr Cook said some concerns about the planning process could be dealt with through the independent review the council has recently launched in light of the Castle Mill controversy.
The inquiry will be headed by Vincent Goostadt who is expected to report back at the end of the year.
Mr Cook said: “He is looking at all the issues surrounding how we process planning applications and he will make recommendations on any improvements he says we could make.”
He added of yesterday’s decision: “I am not surprised that the judge has not given permission for a review.”
Alison Stibbe, a spokesman for the Blavatnik School of Government, which is currently based in Merton Street, said: “We are very pleased that the judge has upheld the planning committee’s decision to give approval for our building.
“We are excited about our prospective move to Walton Street in autumn 2015 and look forward to continued engagement with the local community as our building work progresses.”