No5 Chambers barristers Ian Dove QC, Tim Jones and Nina Pindham, on behalf of Birmingham City Council, successfully defended judicial review proceedings in the High Court on 22 October 2013.
The decision being challenged was the defendant’s adoption of the preliminary decisions of an inspector appointed to conduct an inquiry into the registration of two village green applications in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. The claimants were also ordered to pay the defendant’s costs.
The claimant landowners (Keir Ventures and Rubery Owen Holdings) possess planning permission to develop the two fields that is set to expire in May 2014 and sought to challenge the limit of the inspector’s discretion to allow amendments to village green applications and the procedure that he chose to follow.
Dove, on behalf of the defendant, submitted that the launch of judicial review proceedings was entirely unnecessary as the inspector could deal with any issues of unfairness, if he considered that to be appropriate, by further direction or by adjournments. He submitted that the procedure in relation to village green applications was meant to be informal and based on ensuring fairness to the parties and that the inspector’s approach could not be criticised.
The court was also invited by the claimants to hear the application for permission as a rolled-up hearing and to adjudicate on whether the interested parties disclosed an arguable case. All of the claimants’ arguments were rejected by HHJ Robert Owen QC (sitting as a High Court judge).
He held that there was jurisdiction to amend an application from being based on use by a locality to use by a neighbourhood; that the inspector had fairly and properly dealt with the claimants’ objections; that it was a question of circumstances whether the statutory declaration had to be re-sworn; and that if there was any criticism of the inspector’s approach it was that he had implicitly granted permission to amend the applications. Other than that, the judge stated that there could be no criticism of the inspector’s decision.