Appeal to Save Warren Farm as open space for the Community
Appeal to Save Warren Farm as open space for the Community
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Latest: Aug. 8, 2017
We have a date for the Appeal Hearing!
The Appeal Hearing has been set for Tuesday, 12 December 2017. It will take place at the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London WC2A 2LL. ...Read more
Save Warren Farm Campaign is a network of nearly 1,700 people who live in Hanwell, Southall and Ealing, wider West London and beyond. We need the support of members of the wider public to protect a big area of public land in west London. This fundraising is for an appeal in the Court of Appeal against a High Court decision which our legal team believes was clearly wrong.
We are fighting Ealing Council about its plans to lease most of Warren Farm to Queens Park Rangers Football Club so that they can build their own Academy and Training facility. The plan is to have some of the space available for community use, but it would be fenced off and tightly controlled.
We strongly believe that publicly-owned, accessible land should not be transferred to commercial organisations for largely private use and profit. Not only would QPR get the land rent-free for 200 years, but they would also make an estimated £4 million from being allowed to dump spoil there to 'level' the land.
Representatives of the 1,700-strong Save Warren Farm Campaign
Warren Farm was, until recently, a schools and clubs sports facility, and is now open land. Whatever happens, it should remain fully accessible to the public, including schools and community use, for future generations. It is not only protected Metropolitan Open Land - London's Green Belt - but also part of Ealing's own parks system, the Brent River Park.
View over Warren Farm from Windmill Lane, Southall, towards Hanwell
Regardless of this protected status, Ealing Council approved a planning application for QPR in June 2016. Mr Justice Dove heard a judicial review (JR) of the decision in the High Court in February 2017. He ruled that the decision had been made correctly. However, our legal team (Marc Willers QC and Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law) had no hesitation in advising us to appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeal.
Please pledge to support us in this Appeal.
We need to win this appeal and knock out these plans. Without a win in the Court of Appeal, that is the end of the road for Warren Farm. QPR would be the winners, and the community the losers.
Otherwise the High Court decision would not only be the end of Warren Farm, but would also set a precedent which would weaken the protection for Metropolitan Open Land and Green Belt nationally.
So Save Warren Farm Campaign needs your help in taking this clearly appealable case forward to the Court of Appeal.
This is a more detailed word about the case from Richard Buxton, our solicitor:
We lost the High Court Judicial Review before Mr Justice Dove. We strongly believed that the Court was wrong on the two issues which he had to decide, and are pleased that Lord Justice Lewison in the Court of Appeal has given us permission to appeal.
The first issue (or ground) concerned how development like this one can be permitted on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL – the same rules as for Green Belt apply) in the first place. Where development is “inappropriate” for MOL, the Council must lawfully find that there are “very special circumstances” (VSC) to justify the development.
There are two categories of matters to consider: those which harm the characteristics of MOL (such as openness, lack of built development), and other matters known as “non-MOL harm”. The key point here is that the loss of free public access to Warren Farm is “non-MOL harm” (public access not being a distinguishing feature of MOL).
Here, however, Ealing Council considered the loss of access acceptable as they said it was balanced by the availability of the new sports pitches to the public, ie loss of access to the whole site was “mitigated out”. So, Ealing Council said there was no non-MOL harm to worry about, and in turn, it did not feature in consideration of VSC as non-MOL harm at all.
The High Court agreed. However we point out that that means including the availability of the new sports pitches in the ‘balancing exercise’ twice: first to neutralise the non-MOL harm and secondly, with public access thus neutralised, with no disbenefits to count against them. So we say Ealing Council indulged in false logic and/or double counting. The Court of Appeal considered that this ground has “real prospects of success”.
The second ground in the case relates to the failure to further London Plan policy in relation to protected open spaces, as which, being Metropolitan Open Land, Warren Farm qualifies. This requires provision of equivalent open space elsewhere to make up for losses such as here at Warren Farm. This was particularly so given that Warren Farm was identified as part of the Brent River Park system.
The Court of Appeal considered that this ground is arguable, and so granted permission to appeal on both grounds.
Now we have permission to appeal we proceed to a full hearing, fixed in the Court of Appeal for 12 December.
Our Vision for the Future of Warren Farm
For more detail about Warren Farm, its nature conservation value, why people are fighting so hard for it, please scroll down.
But in a nutshell, Warren Farm has loads of potential not only as a schools and community sports area, but simply as an open space which Londoners need. It is also good for nature conservation - we have nesting Skylarks (the only ones in Ealing), nesting Little Owls, and foraging Red Kites. Part of the area is designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (which under the QPR plans would be obliterated by a road).
Adult Skylark with nestlings
Warren Farm, 61 acres in total, has been in use as a school and club sports facility since the early 1960s. The changing facilities were poorly designed at that time and have been badly maintained for decades. No one wants to save them.
When we first started fighting for the land, we envisaged a new 21st century community sports pavilion, designed for this sensitive green location in Metropolitan Open Land, with social space/cafeteria, and changing rooms to support 30 teams and associated officials.
However, Ealing Council stopped maintaining the pitches in September 2013. Since then, the site has reverted to nature. We feel that the land should be re-appraised as one of Ealing's more significant neutral grasslands and used for recreation and environmental education.
For example, replace the run down changing rooms with a 21st century educational facility focusing on the environment, with social space for educational events.
The Hub in Regent's Park, London; an example of building a multi-functional community asset on an environmentally sensitive site
Allocate space on the land to run ‘special needs' allotments. Surround the site with a bridleway to support the stables in the neighbouring field. And develop other environmentally-sound pursuits to help the land pay for itself.
'A' level students on a Biology field trip
If we win, we can work with Ealing Council to consult with the community and implement an environmentally sound, community-led enhancement of the land for education, leisure and sport, and maintain it as open access for all.
But first...we need to win the appeal. And we need your help to do this.
How much do we need to raise and what will the money be spent on?
We have already raised around £20,000 for the first legal stage, going to the High Court. But this only partly covers our own legal costs, and having lost in the High Court we also presently have to pay £5,000 towards Ealing Council's costs. We estimate that we need to raise a further £20-25,000 to cover the outstanding costs to date and carry on with the appeal.
We have needed funds to date to cover the complex business of pulling the claim together, including investigating other apparent deficiencies in the decision-making process; having a 'permission' hearing to decide whether the claim should proceed; gathering further evidence in response to what the Council were saying about how properly they made their decision; and the hearing in the High Court in February 2017.
The appeal so far involves carefully analysing the High Court judgment to work out why we can properly argue it is defective, lodging a further complex of papers, and replying to objections put in by QPR (which the Council supported) as to why we should not be allowed to appeal. If we are granted permission to proceed, we will need funding for the costs of the appeal hearing itself, and associated work like court fees and printing.
There are two legal issues in the case.
First is whether Ealing Council lawfully balanced the loss of public access against what it said were the benefits of the proposals. We say that the Council engaged in double counting and what it did goes against existing Court of Appeal authority.
Secondly we say that the fact that Warren Farm is part of the Brent River Park system was not brought to the attention of councillors and did not follow the London Plan. The Council denies that its status as a park has any legal meaning.
For a detailed explanation of our appeal case from our solicitor Richard Buxton, scroll down.
Warren Farm, its nature conservation interest and why people are fighting so hard for it
- Ealing Council plans to lease 61 acres of publicly-owned community sports fields for 200 years at no rent to QPR Football Club, a privately owned company
View across Warren Farm from the five-bar-gate on the Hanwell side of the site, looking north west
- This public land is located adjacent to the Grand Union Canal/River Brent and is within the protected Brent River Park. It is designated Metropolitan Open Land, which is London’s Green Belt and as such should be given the highest level of protection under planning policy and law
Location of Warren Farm (5) within the Brent River Park adjacent to Blackberry Corner,/Jubilee Meadow (4); Trumper's Field (16); Green Lane Wharf (18); St Margaret's Road Open Space (19) Fitzherbert Walk and Hanwell Island (15); and to the south, showing the Windmill Lane Green Corridor that connects the Warren Farm Site of Importance for Nature Conservation to Long Wood
- The former pitches at Warren Farm would now be classed as one of Ealing's more significant neutral grasslands if the Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) were being reviewed at this time
- And, importantly, Warren Farm is Ealing's only site with nesting Skylarks. Skylarks have been given RSPB Red Status. Red is the highest conservation priority, with the species needing urgent action
Skylark singing above its nest
- The Council has granted planning permission to QPR football club, owned by billionaires, to build their own Training and Academy facility on this publicly-owned land for the benefit of their own shareholders
- QPR would fence this previously openly accessible land off, and control public entry and restrict public access to only one third of the land
- Two thirds of the land would be for QPR’s exclusive use, with only one third left for the community
- Current plans increase the built footprint on this Metropolitan Open Land (London’s Green Belt) by over 300%, with buildings designed more appropriately for Heathrow airport rather than for protected Metropolitan Open Land or Green Belt
Artist's impression of QPR development. Would include 555 parking spaces including overspill. Site of importance for Nature Conservation along the southern edge of the site, connecting to the Windmill Lane Green Corridor and Long Wood, would be obliterated by access road to pitches
- A Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, with a well-established and diverse flora, and successfully nesting Little Owls, would be wiped out under an access road
This female (adult) Little Owl was ringed (by Phil Belman, British Trust for Ornithology 'A' ringer and trainer) when it first nested at Warren Farm in May 2010, and has been recaptured nesting successfully here almost every year since. She is now at least 8 years old and is the oldest known Little Owl in Greater London. [picture: Aisha Helen Belman]
Three young chicks in the nest box (16 May 2017) [picture: Aisha Helen Belman]
- QPR would level the land with 180,000 cubic metres of landfill through a ‘muck away’ scheme. This amounts to 150 trucks per day, in and then out, thundering through narrow roads, to and from the site, 10 hours a day, five days a week, for eight months. QPR (not Ealing Council) would make around £4 million from this scheme
The edge of the site along the north east side (Hanwell) would be raised using non-specific landfill to a height of 5M above the current level. [Stock photo]
- And Red Kites have also been hunting over the grassland. This is a target species to encouraged in Ealing Council's own Biodiversity Action Plan.
Red Kite hunting
- We are also, separately, fighting to protect established public footpaths that have been used by local people for generations across the site
We ask for your support for the funding needs to date and in the future. Our legal team has asked for much less than they should have been paid so far.
It has been hard for fundraising to keep up with the speed of the case, and we thought it best to wait until we knew where we stood following the High Court result and the application for permission to appeal before further fundraising.
Realistically, and bearing in mind that the lawyers are prepared to carry on working at some risk, we now need to raise £25,000. There are so many people affected by this that we trust we can do that without difficulty.
Save Warren Farm Campaign
Aug. 8, 2017
We have a date for the Appeal Hearing!
The Appeal Hearing has been set for Tuesday, 12 December 2017. It will take place at the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London WC2A 2LL.
The time of the Hearing has not yet been confirmed, but they generally start promptly at 10.00am. We will confirm when we are advised.
Anyone can attend as this is a Public Hearing - please feel free to come along - let us know if you plan to attend so that we can ensure that you receive any last minute updates.
Thank you so much for your contributions to date to our legal costs; we could not have done this without your help.
...but we still need more - please contribute (again) to the legal funds if you are able. If you are not able to send us any more funds you can still help by:
1. Emailing five of your friends and asking them to pledge to this case
2. Post a link to Facebook asking your friends to pledge - https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/appeal-to-save-warren-farm/
The Save Warren Farm Team
Save Warren Farm Campaign
July 20, 2017
STOP PRESS - permission to appeal now granted by Court of Appeal
LATEST NEWS - the Court of Appeal has granted permission to appeal the High Court ruling. Lord Justice Lewison considered that the appeal about the way the Council allowed development on Metropolitan Open Land had "real prospects of success" and also that a second point, about whether the Council had applied London Policy on protected open space properly would be considered.
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