High Court rejects Southampton large casino JR challenge

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On 9 February the High Court delivered its judgment in the case of Global Gaming Ventures (Southampton) Ltd v Southampton City Council and Aspers Universal Limited [2017] EWHC 165 (Admin) in which the claimant challenged the decision of Southampton Council’s Licensing Committee to award Aspers the winner of the large casino competition in Southampton.

By way of background, seven applications were originally made for the grant of a provisional statement, all of which successfully completed the first stage of the competition. Five related to the Royal Pier Waterfront development (including the winner’s), one to a site on West Quay Road (Grosvenor’s) and another (GGV’s) to a site at Watermark West Quay. In due course just two of the Royal Pier applications (those of Aspers and Kymeira), plus Grosvenor’s and GGV’s at their respective sites proceeded to the second stage of the competition.

GGV brought its judicial review challenge on two grounds:

  1. the evaluation of benefits should have been mathematical, since the words “Gross Value Added” had been used in the evaluation criteria and
  2. the licensing authority should have considered whether an alternative tenant could be found to step into Aspers’ shoes to provide equivalent impetus.

The Judge rejected both arguments and refused permission to judicially review the Licensing Committee’s decision, stating in his judgment in relation to each of the said grounds:

  • “although I accept that GVA is usually expressed as a monetary value, I consider that, in the context of the broad evaluation exercise which it was required to carry out, the Advisory Panel was entitled to take the view that it was not required to make a mathematical calculation of the GVA of each of the applications” and
  • “there is no evidence that such a fundamental amendment, as suggested by the claimant, would be countenanced, and that the wider development would go ahead as originally envisaged without the prior construction of the casino development”

It is worthy of note that no challenge was made by GGV either to the Council’s Statement of Principles or to its Competition Procedure Note, both of which made it clear that, whilst full and fair consideration would be given to an application for a large casino at any site within its area, the Council favoured the Royal Pier Waterfront site because the granting of a large casino licence at the site would provide an anchor for the large scale regeneration of the area.