City counts cost of fighting protests through the courts

controversy: The Castle Mill development

controversy: The Castle Mill development

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

MORE than £73,000 has been spent fighting attempts to take Oxford City Council to the High Court.

In the last three years 10 attempts have been made to launch judicial reviews against the authority.

And while none of these have been successful, the city council has failed to make its costs back overall, losing about £23,000.

The figures, revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, come as a High Court judge has granted permission for a judicial review to take place in the case of Oxford Stadium.

The city council has requested that the High Court makes the decision again at a public hearing – but the date for this has not been set.

Nigel Gibson, of the Save Temple Cowley Pools campaign, took the council to the High Court over its plans to close the Temple Road facility and replace it with a new one in Blackbird Leys.

He said: “I believe that the reason for this is down to the behaviour of the council in that it is very confrontational and trying to defend its position all the time rather than discuss issues with people directly.

“You see time and time again that lip service is paid to consultation and when they do get feedback they don’t listen or respond appropriately to what people want.”

thisisoxfordshire:

  • ‘Strong case’: Bob Price

Lib Dem city councillor Jean Fooks, the leader of the opposition on the council, said she feels the number of judicial reviews is on the up.

She said: “They certainly seem to be coming more frequently. Whether that’s because there is a lot going on I don’t know.

“It is a fine balance because you don’t want to criticise people for using the options available to them and it is good that people care about the city they live in.

“There is a feeling sometimes that consultation is simply something that involves giving people information and then doing it anyway.”

GRA Acquisition, the owner of Oxford Stadium in Sandy Lane, had submitted a judicial review against the city council’s decision to designate the stadium as a conservation area.

The decision was taken after the city council refused developer Galliard planning permission to bulldoze the stadium and build 220 homes on the site.

City council leader Bob Price said: “We think we have a strong case and are certainly happy to defend the judicial review application for Oxford Stadium in court.

“Oxford is a place where there are plenty of people who are able to use the judicial route and places like Oxford will always have more experience of that sort of thing.

“People ask for judicial reviews if they feel they have some grounds of protest but we are always very careful about our processes and we have defended them very successfully.”

The Oxford Mail contacted Galliard and GRA Acquisition. Galliard refused to comment and the GRA did not respond.

 

LEGAL BATTLES AND the bills involved

THE most expensive case was the city council’s battle against a sexual entertainment licence for The Lodge in Oxpens Road, which cost it £31,660. But it received £43,398 back in costs. 
In its battle over the Castle Mill planning row last year the city council spent £6,365 and didn’t receive anything back in costs. 

2011/12                

  • Martin Young over Oxford Brookes University’s new building. Legal fees were £17,500 and nil costs were awarded
  • Sean Feeney over the city council’s core strategy. Legal fees were £12,000 and nil costs were awarded

2012/13  

  • Mohammed Chamani over the housing allocation scheme assessment. Legal fees were nil but costs awarded were £595
  • Mohammed Chamani over the provision of interim accommodation. Legal fees and costs awarded were nil
  • Nigel Gibson over the swimming pool Blackbird Leys. Legal fees were £2,100. Costs awarded were £4,000
  • Irena Zani vs Oxfordshire County Council (city council joined as interested party) over a town green application for Blackbird Leys Park. Legal fees were nil. Costs awarded were nil. 
  • Oxford City Council vs itself over a clerical error in planning permission. Legal fees and costs were nil. 

2013/14 

  • CPRE over the Castle Mill development. Legal fees were £6,365 and nil costs were awarded. 
  • David Freud over Blavatnik School of Government planning permission. Legal fees were £3,900. Costs awarded were £2,400
  • Alistair Thompson over a sexual entertainment licence for The Lodge. Legal fees were £31,660. Costs awarded were £43,398. 

Comments (2)

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9:24am Wed 13 Aug 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

"Activists" will never be happy with a consultation where the result doesn't go in their favour.
"Activists" will never be happy with a consultation where the result doesn't go in their favour. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 2

11:42am Wed 13 Aug 14

mytaxes says...

Perhaps if councillors listened more to the electorate there would not be so many cases taken to court. Mrs. Fooks is correct: “There is a feeling sometimes that consultation is simply something that involves giving people information and then doing it anyway.”

Perhaps if some of our councillors got rid of their "we know what's best for you" attitude things would improve.
Perhaps if councillors listened more to the electorate there would not be so many cases taken to court. Mrs. Fooks is correct: “There is a feeling sometimes that consultation is simply something that involves giving people information and then doing it anyway.” Perhaps if some of our councillors got rid of their "we know what's best for you" attitude things would improve. mytaxes
  • Score: 2

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