Court Of Appeal Refuses Appeal But Make An Important Acknowledgment
The Court of Appeal gave judgment on Thursday 16 November 2017 at 2 p.m. Although the Court of Appeal refused our appeal, the judgment is extremely important in that it acknowledges that public parks are held by local authorities on trust for the purpose of public enjoyment and the public are its beneficial owners; as such the public have a statutory right to use the land for recreational purpo...Read More >>
Our parks are under threat
Across the capital, parks are becoming increasingly neglected by a number of councils and local authorities, who see them as venues available for private hire rather than as open spaces for the enjoyment of all the community.
The Friends of Finsbury Park are launching a London-wide fundraising campaign to protect London’s most historic parks by challenging the legal basis on which councils say they have the power to hire out large parts of their public parks for an unlimited period of time for commercial events. We want to send a message to local authorities that land-grabbing in parks, and excluding the public is not a sustainable long-term model for preserving London’s parks for future generations.
Excessive commercial events keep park users out
Finsbury Park is a case-in-point. During summer 2017, large parts of the park have been closed for events including:
- Wireless Festival (12 days)
- Community Festival (6 days - This was in fact a private ticketed event, not a community festival as the names suggested. It was run by the Wireless Festival organisers)
- Hospitality in the Park and Abode festival(10 days)
- Tranzmission festival (10 days)
The effect of these closures is that during much of the summer months, the public is excluded from using large parts of the Park.
While the events themselves last 2 or 3 days, the park is occupied by the organisers for up to two weeks for each event to allow for setup and take-down of barriers, stages and other buildings built for the festival. This has a huge impact on the vitality of the park, and causes major disturbance and disruption for park users. Private security firms are deployed during these events, to ensure that the community is kept out from what should be their public space, creating an intimidating and oppressive environment.
The Wireless Festival, for example, closes off a huge part of the Park over the summer, surrounded by an oppressive 12 foot high steel barrier to keep park users out, and leaves it behind in a much deteriorated condition. Many local residents don't have gardens so the Park serves as a vital outdoor amenity, and these commercial events deny access to the public to what should be public space. The remainder of the usable space within the park is plagued by large construction vehicles driving to and from the site, which are inappropriate for a park environment and pose a safety risk to park users.
We brought judicial review proceedings to challenge the continued over-use of the Park for private and commercial events, but Mr Justice Supperstone in the High Court refused our challenge in June last year.
We have now been granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the decision of Mr Justice Supperstone and our hearing has been fixed for 2nd November 2017; this will be heard by the Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.
We have teamed up with the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body and charity concerned with the protection of parks and open spaces across the country, who will be intervening on our behalf during the court proceedings. The Society is deeply concerned about how our park and others across the capital have been exploited and neglected by local authorities in recent times.
What we are hoping to achieve
The renting out and leasing of parks as private venues is increasing across the capital, to a level of exploitation that is not sustainable. However, our legal action is not about banning events in the Park outright. If we win our appeal, the ruling will not ban commercial events, but it will restrict the number of days of events, and the size of events, to a level that is sustainable and continues to preserve the Park as an area of tranquility and natural beauty, free and open to all.
Why this case matters to you
This is not just about protecting Finsbury Park and safeguarding it for future generations. The outcome of this appeal will have legal ramifications for every local authority managed public park across our capital: it will decide whether parks will be protected for local communities against commercial over-exploitation, or given away indefinitely for local authorities to hire out to whoever they want, for however long, regardless of its condition or the customer.
Indeed, in giving the Friends permission to bring this case before the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said the case raised a point of, "considerable importance for London local authorities" ; in giving the Open Spaces Society permission to make submissions in the appeal, the Lord Justice also said that the issue in the appeal, "is of importance to London open spaces and parks."
That’s why, more than ever, we need your help to fight this legal case. We must send out a message to local authorities that parks are there for everyone, not just for the commercial interests of a few large businesses. Please help us out by giving us what you can towards our legal fees.
We would like to thank all of the hundreds of people who have supported our cause thus far - without your help, we would not have got as far as we have with our campaign.
How much are we raising and what is it for?
We are raising monies to bring an appeal in the Court of Appeal to challenge the ability of local authorities to hire out large parts of London parks for commercial events without any restriction on the size of the events or the number of days that a park is hired out for. Our lawyers are acting on a conditional (no win no fee) basis but we still have to pay for disbursements such as copying charges and court fees; we are also liable for the Council’s costs if we lose but limited to £10,000. We are therefore looking to raise costs of up to a minimum of £15,000 and hopefully more. We would be very grateful if you could help us raise this for our appeal proceedings.
Please donate now and help save your park! We need your help because we have to stop our parks being used in this way. Many councils are already looking to host events such as Wireless in their parks. Commercial exploitation such as this will happen across the country if we don't make a stand. These are your green spaces, your community, your parks. We can stop this now, and save our parks for generations to come, helping our children and theirs to enjoy parks as the Victorians originally intended!
Court Of Appeal Refuses Appeal But Make An Important Acknowledgment
The Court of Appeal gave judgment on Thursday 16 November 2017 at 2 p.m. Although the Court of Appeal refused our appeal, the judgment is extremely important in that it acknowledges that public parks are held by local authorities on trust for the purpose of public enjoyment and the public are its beneficial owners; as such the public have a statutory right to use the land for recreational purposes and the local authority owner must allow the public free and unrestricted use of it.
Although the Court found that s.145 of the Local Government Act 1972 is not limited by any other statutory provision and gives the local authority the power to exclude the public from public parks notwithstanding the public’s rights, that power must be exercised lawfully and not perversely or to frustrate the purpose of the trust (i.e. the public’s right to use the land for recreational purposes). Crucially, the Court of Appeal raises therefore the prospect that where a local authority uses s.145 to exclude the public from a park, that decision can be challenged by residents asserting that the closure of a park is unlawful because it interferes too much with the public’s right to use the park for recreation.
Also, as the court has found that the Council holds Finsbury Park on trust for the public, this means that any monies rasied by the Council from the hire of Finsbury Park must be used only for the purpose of Finsbury Park. We will also be asking Haringey Council to account for all the monies they have raised by the hire of Finsbury Park as they are only allowed to spend the monies on Finsbury itself. The Friends are concerned that in fact the Council has been using the monies for it’s general parks budget.
The Friends of Finsbury Park maintain however that a local authority’s power to exclude the public from a park is limited by the restrictions on space and time as set out in the Public Health Amendment Act 1890, section 44 (closure of a park for no more than 12 days in a year or 6 consecutive days on any one occasion) and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967, Article 7 (max of 1/10 of park to be closed).
We have therefore applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and will continue to raise funds to be able to do this including for their potential exposure to the other sides’ costs, the court fees and copying charges; the Friends’ legal team continues to act on a conditional fee (no win no fee) basis.
Although we have lost the appeal this case is gathering momentum fast as people all over the country begin to hear about how their parks will be affected. Many thanks for your donations and support this far. More updates soon!
Judgement Reserved In Court Of Appeal
Yesterday our case was heard by the Court of Appeal (Lord Justices Hickinbottom, Singh and Treacy) in court 70 of the Royal Courts of Justice, and heard argument from the parties (Richard Harwood QC for the Friends of Finsbury Park; George Laurence QC for the Open Spaces Society; Philip Kolvin for Haringey Council and Robert McCracken QC for Wireless Festival). The Court of Appeal thanked the parties for their legal arguments and observed that this was a very interesting case. A reserved judgment was given, which means that they will go away to write their judgments and deliver them in the next month or so. We will post the judgement as soon as we have it.
A huge thanks to all of you who have donated and supported our campaign so far. We have received over £5,000 of donations and with seven days to go we need to raise more so please donate if you haven’t already!
We’re in the High Court next week but we still need your help!
It's crunch time as this 'test case' is now of critical nationwide importance for councils and public spaces in London and beyond:
- Although primarily a London campaign, should we win our legal case, The Friends of Finsbury Park would set a legal precedent and a nationwide cap on the number of days a year that parks can be rented out, and the size of events in London.
Here’s an explanation of how this case could affect your local park:
- In London, there is the explicit area restriction of max of 1/10 of the park to be closed off by virtue of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967, Article 7.
- In London and the rest of the country, section 44 of the Public Health Acts Amended Act 1890 limits the time that a park can be closed to no more than 12 days in a year or 6 consecutive days on any one occasion.
- The Council and Wireless say that s.145 of the Local Government Act 1972 allows a local authority to ignore the 1967 Act and the 1890 Act. We say it doesn't.
- So, if we are right, London parks will be subject to an area limit and a time limit; local authority parks outside London will be subject to the time limit only (so our case will still be of benefit to parks outside London in that the time limit will apply).
- We say there are obvious reasons for having an area restriction in London given the size and built up nature of the capital and the greater distances to be travelled to open areas.
We are so grateful to all of you who have donated already. If you are just finding out about our campaign, please show your support by donating what you can and help us to protect your park!
Jeremy Corbyn MP Shows His Support For Protect London’s Parks Campaign
(From left to right) Tom Palin, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Kevin Duffy, Simon Hunt - Chair
As the Protect London's Parks Campaign gathers momentum, three generations of Friends of Finsbury Park Chairs met with the Friend’s patron, Jeremy Corbyn MP on Friday who gave his full support to our campaign and expressed his concern over the use of commercial events in Finsbury Park. He said, "I know and love Finsbury Park, but it needs to be a park for all, all of the time, which means management and restrictions of all events in the times of year that the park is occupied by these events."
Jeremy also raised the prospect of discussing new policies/legislation with his shadow environment minister for the restriction of the use of public spaces for private events. Should we win our legal case, we would set a legal precedent and a London-wide cap on the number of days a year that parks can be rented out, and the size of events. And our case will have benefits to local authority parks all over the country as well, as restrictions to the amount of days a year parks are allowed to be used for commercial events, will be applied.
Our case is of vital importance to local authority managed public parks. As has been highlighted by Haringey Council’s proposals for next summer’s events in Finsbury Park, applications have already been made for the closures of the Park for up to 6 large-scale events. This means that large areas of the Park would be closed for up to 10 weeks of the summer, just on the basis of the information received so far. We anticipate that further event applications may be on the way.
The Friends of Finsbury Park legal action is not about banning events in public parks outright. If we win the appeal, the ruling will not ban commercial events, but it will restrict the number of days of events, and the size of events, to a level that is sustainable and continues to preserve London parks as areas of tranquillity and natural beauty, free and open to all.
A huge thank you to all who have donated so far, but we still need to raise more money. This is a 'test case' of critical nationwide importance for councils and public spaces in London and beyond so please show your support and donate now!
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