High Court Agrees To Grant Judicial Review

Pressure group welcomes "step forward in the campaign to stop the Council building Roads on the Common"

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The Friends of Putney Common (FofPC) learnt on Friday (12th July 2013) that its application for a Judicial Review challenging the legality of "easement agreements", allowing the building of a private road on Putney Common, has been granted by the High Court.

The agreements were signed in secret by the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators (WPCC) and Wandsworth Borough Council (WBC) in February 2012.

John Howell QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, said that the WPCC's assertions that it is legally entitled to provide easements over Putney Common are “arguable”. A date for the Judicial Review has not yet been fixed.

The proposed private road would be for the sole use of luxury flats and a two-form entry primary academy for 420 pupils to be built on the site of the former Putney Hospital, which is entirely surrounded by common land. The planning application for the development attracted a substantial number of objections from local Putney residents, including over 500 specific complaints about building roads on the Common. The planning application was by Wandsworth Council’s Children’s Services Department to Wandsworth Council acting as Planning Authority, and was granted in October 2012 but subsequently quashed by a High Court order in March 2013. Today, the site has no planning applications pending or valid consents.

The decision by the High Court to allow the case to proceed to a Judicial Review is a major step forward for FofPC who have long argued that the WPCC is acting outside its powers laid down in the 1871 Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act. This Act of Parliament was specifically set up to create and protect the Common and stop encroachment on to it.

In submissions to the court, the WPCC (and WBC, as an "interested party") argued that it had the authority to make such easement agreements. The parties also said that the Judicial Review application should be refused because it was “out of time” and “devoid of merit”.

Despite these submissions, the High Court have granted the FofPC a Judicial Review including a Protective Costs Order and recognized the claim under the Aarhus Convention.

FofPC spokesman Nicholas Evans, in whose name the Judicial Review application was made, said today:
"We are delighted that the High Court has granted a Judicial Review. It is a step forward in our campaign to protect Putney Common from what we believe is unlawful encroachment by the Council. We have an excellent and very experienced legal team and we are looking forward to arguing our case in more detail before the Judge. After 18 months of acrimonious debate with the WPCC and WBC we welcome this opportunity to establish once and for all whether the Conservators can effectively sell rights to parts of the Common and allow the council to build private roads on it."

Nick continued:
" We are grateful to the many local residents who have supported and helped us to reach this stage.”

July 19, 2013