Millennium appeal to be rushed through

Roger Pearson reports on a last-minute hearing hoping to clear the way for the funding of a millennium park in Liverpool.

The start of an appeal expected to last two days has been set for 25 August in one of the fastest cases to pass through the courts recently.

The case involves a last-minute bid to clear the way for Liverpool City Council's plans for a millennium park.

The fears are that if the way is not cleared for the scheme to go ahead rapidly, funding for it could be withdrawn. Liverpool Council has already indicated that if that happens then this could be just the start of a longer and more costly legal battle.

It says that if the u120m scheme does collapse it will sue for damages.

The appeal will centre on a 150-page judgment produced by Mr Justice Neuberger on 30 July, the last day of the legal term.

Judge Neuberger had been asked to rule that Rosemary Chavasse Ltd should be allowed to go ahead with the project. However, for this to happen a ruling was needed that the Walton Group, which wants the site for a u160m retail development, was not entitled to exercise an option it claimed over the land.

Walton alleges that Chavasse overran the time allowed for it to raise government and millennium funding and that, in those circumstances, the group's option is still valid.

However, Peter Smith QC for Liverpool argued during the High Court hearing that the Walton option was only to come into being if Chavasse's option lapsed through lack of millennium funding.

He claimed that after a series of option extensions granted by the council, Chavasse had secured the necessary finance. As a result, in March this year, planning consent for the Discovery Park was granted. The millennium project can only go ahead if Chavasse is given unencumbered title to the land and this will not be possible until Walton releases its option.

Mr Justice Neuberger ruled that, while the agreement, which Walton claims it is entitled to enforce, was valid, the council was entitled to rectify it on the grounds it contained a mistake.

His decision would give the council the unencumbered right to the land they sought but it is that ruling which is now to be appealed.