Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Curious Court Case

A court case took place in Cardiff in early July which was relevant to Grove Wood. Following a few calls to Cardiff by members of Snuff Mills Action Group, we have been given to understand it was some sort of an objection to the Tree Preservation Order on Grove Wood. These case details were posted on the Court's website:

Court 16
Before The Honourable Mr Justice Wyn Williams KT
Friday 3rd July 2009
10.30am For Hearing: Co/3998/2009 Bown v Bristol 10.30am For Hearing: Co/3998/2009 Bown v Bristol City Council"

The outcome of the case has now been published and here is what a news agency has sent out on the wires: BRISTOL City Council has fought off a unique High Court challenge by one of its own forestry officers who attempted to stop part of a Stapleton wood from being protected by a tree preservation order.

Arboricultural officer Jonathan Bown was sent by the council to investigate reports of tree felling at Grove Wood, Blackberry Hill, Stapleton, in January last year.

He inspected the trees allegedly felled and, after deciding that "no illegal activity had taken place", Mr Bown decided in July last year that no tree preservation order should be issued to protect 27 trees along the wood's boundary and the adjoining road.

Top judge, Mr Justice Wyn Williams, said today that the woodland issue generated "substantial local interest" and, in September last year, Mr Bown's immediate line manager, Richard Ennion, took over from him as council officer in charge of the case.

Eventually, Mr Bown was overruled by the council's planning committee which confirmed a Woodland Tree Preservation Order over Grove Wood in April this year.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams said Mr Bown did not, as a private individual, register a formal objection to the order, although he "feels passionately that a Woodland Tree Preservation Order over the whole of the wood was completely unjustified".

The judge added: "As I understand it, he has made that view known with vigour to his employers, Bristol City Council".

At the High Court, Mr Bown put forward "at least seven or eight" reasons why the order should be overturned, but the judge said that, on the face of it, many of his complaints were "not strictly legal points".

He said he had reached "the strong provisional view" that Mr Bown's arguments were "certainly not points upon which it would be proper to quash the tree preservation order" over the wood, which is part of the Stapleton and Frome Valley Conservation Area.

The judge in the end dismissed Mr Bown's case on grounds that - as he is neither the owner of Grove Wood, nor does he live nearby - he is not a "person aggrieved" who would have a legal right to challenge the council's decision in court.

To allow Mr Bown to pursue his case, said the judge, "would be to widen the category of persons permitted to make such challenges far beyond that which was intended by the legislature, as interpreted by the Higher Courts".

He added: "I am satisfied that Mr Bown has no such interest in this case. Accordingly, I conclude that he is not a person who is entitled to bring a claim...so as to seek to quash the Woodland Tree Preservation Order made in respect of Grove Wood".
(The mushroom pictured is called a lawyers wig by the way).
You can read the judgment here in full. The Evening Post article about the case is here.


andy-s said...

The case has been dismissed! The Court found in favour of Bristol City Council as the complainent, Mr Bown, was not the aggrieved person (i.e. the landowner).

Mogz said...

Now why would a Bristol City Council employee take his own employers to court over a TPO on land that isn't his? Curiouser and curiouser!

stevem said...

Someone attempted to post this comment on the blog over the weekend:

"I heard the council are pretty worried and the guy is likely to win. he has very strong argument and an experienced legal team supporting him. Although the claimant appeared in court himself he has a QC and leading author backing him. stephanie"

I wonder who Stephanie might be?

stevem said...

We have now discovered that Mr Bown's objected to the TPO on both legal and procedural grounds.

A lot of paperwork was submitted to the Court and we hope to obtain this through the court in due course so that we can study it.

While the judge indicated that he will dismiss the case because Mr Bown is not an aggrieved party to the placing of the TPO, the judge has yet to issue his full judgement. However, the judge made no adverse comments about either Bristol City Council or Snuff Mills Action Group during the course of the hearing.

We will provide more information about the judgement as soon as it has been passed down by the judge.

andy-s said...

We were told what the judgment would be unofficially but it's good to see it in full. Whatever was the point? I hope BCC now take this person to task over what he's done.

Martyn said...

Fantastic news!... and further endorsement of the conservation areas status and the public's claim for the amenity value of this woodland. It's a pity certain elements in the Council couldn't have endorsed this from the start but is now a lesson hard learned by some. I hope the Council will implement new procedures for dealing with conservation areas so the public and campaign groups don't have to prove what is already known.