Risk decision to protect Leach Grove Wood in Leatherhead could be overturned

June 13, 2018
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A lengthy legal battle over a much-loved woodland area has taken another twist.

Residents trying to save Leach Grove Wood in Leatherhead by campaigning for village green status for the land were celebrating a few weeks ago after successfully appealing a judicial review.

But Surrey County Council has now received notification that the win could still be overturned at the Supreme Court.

The land is owned by NHS Property Services Ltd (NHSPS) and is next to Leatherhead Hospital.

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Residents say they have been using it regularly for the past 20 years for bike rides and walks.

To protect its future in, 2013 Flip Cargill and the Leatherhead Residents’ Association applied for the Village Green status.

Because of an objection from NHSPS, which is the freeholder of the land, a public inquiry was held and although the inspector advised there was not enough “sufficient cohesion to form a neighbourhood”, SCC planning and regulatory committee still passed the application for the land to be registered as a village green.

NHSPS applied for a judicial review in 2016 and won, with the High Court judge overturning the decision made by the SCC committee.

Tim Jones , a local resident to the area, took up the cause and in October 2017 was granted an appeal of the judicial review at the Court of Appeal.

The wood at the centre of the drawn-out saga
(Image: Grant Melton)

In April this year, the court published its decision overturning the High Court judge’s decision, meaning the land could be classed as a village green.

However, in papers to go before SCC planning and regulatory committee members on Wednesday, June 20, it states: “The Court of Appeal refused the application of the NHSPS to appeal further.

“However, the council has now received notification that the NHSPS is applying for an extension of time to apply to the Supreme Court itself for permission to appeal further.

“The decision of the Supreme Court is awaited as to whether it will allow an extension of time and, as to whether it will allow the NHSPS to appeal.

“If an appeal is allowed, it is unlikely that the decision will be issued for about another two years.”

The grounds of appeal are based on statutory incompatibility and the definition of locality and neighbourhood.

Statutory incompatibility is a legal term concerning land being registered as green. If it is held by a public body with specific statutory purposes that are incompatible with use as a green, then statutory powers of the local authority to develop the land would not in itself be considered a statutory incompatibility.

As it stands, the decision of SCC planning and regulatory committee to award the land village green is still upheld, but councillors now have to “wait to see what will happen”.

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/risk-decision-protect-leach-grove-14777926


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