Save Batford Farm fields from development

by David Cairns

Save Batford Farm fields from development

by David Cairns
David Cairns
David Cairns is Chair of Right School Right Place, a residents group formed in 2013 to oppose the selection of this site in Batford for a secondary school.
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David Cairns
David Cairns is Chair of Right School Right Place, a residents group formed in 2013 to oppose the selection of this site in Batford for a secondary school.
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This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: July 10, 2018

JR Update, 10th July 2018

Again, thank-you to all supporters.  

Today was the first day in court. 

PLANNING COURT

COURT 18
Before MRS JUSTICE LANG
Tuesday 10 July, 2018
At half past 10

APPLICATION(s)
CO/1681/2018 The Quee...

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David Cairns is fundraising to cover the costs of a legal challenge in the High Court to the decision by Hertfordshire County Council dated 15 March 2018 to grant themselves planning permission for a new secondary school. David is bringing this claim because he strongly believes this is a bad decision for Harpenden, Hertfordshire and its people, but also because he wants to safeguard the interests of all local residents. He is chair of Right School Right Place which is the name given to the residents who have worked together since 2013 to oppose the selection of this site for this school.

Despite evidence and objections from residents across the planning area, as well as their own departments, other Councils and organisations, HCC granted planning permission in 2018. Some of the many issues include evidence of and distance from school place need, traffic/road safety, topography, highly significant archaeology, urban sprawl (Harpenden/ Wheathampstead) & irreparable harm to Green Belt in a Landscape Conservation Area.

The plan not only displaces long-standing cattle farming on a highly prominent Green Belt site, but is so close to existing schools and so far from potential families in need, that most pupils will need to travel some distance by road to reach the school. This in turn adds significant traffic to an already congested, over-capacity and dangerous B-road bottle-neck. The route is even deemed too dangerous for pedestrians and as a result the DfE, through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) made a highly unusual/ last-minute undertaking to fund bus transport costs until the school is fully occupied.

I want to:

  • protect an important Green Belt gap that is rich with significant archaeology
  • ensure school planning delivers a sustainable solution to safeguard future education provision in the County
  • hold Hertfordshire County Council to account, through a Judicial Review which is the sole means available to challenge the Planning Decision

I believe the Council’s decision is unlawful on several grounds, including:

  • The Council irrationally judged in its “screening opinion” for environmental impact assessment that the development was unlikely to have significant environmental effects;
  • The Council improperly took into account its Green Belt designation; the harm to the openness of the Green Belt would cause and its consequent low land value as a factor in favour of developing the site and thereby failed to properly apply Green Belt policy protecting its openness.
  • The Council failed to properly consider the question of the need for school places and transport, including local traffic implications. For example, they built their case on school place data and analyses that they have already identified as flawed, yet failed to correct. These previous failings have already seen inappropriate decisions taken elsewhere in the County and have potential to do so again.

I have engaged Downs Solicitors LLP and Counsel, Mr Alexander Goodman of Landmark Chambers to represent me in this action, which has tight time restrictions and is further compounded by the ESFA requesting an ‘expedited’ hearing.

The case has now been listed to be heard in the High Court on 10th and 11th July 2018.

As further background:

  • In 2013 the Council announced their intention to use compulsory purchase (if needed) to acquire the farmland but they did not make this process clear to local residents, only making their intentions known when it was too late to challenge.
  • Residents subsequently also discovered that the Council had both identified the site and been planning this purchase for a number of years before going public.
  • In 2017, HCC launched a planning application immediately after making a last-minute land purchase, thus enabling HCC to hear their own planning application.
  • The Council had to twice extend public consultation due to issues with information supplied as part of the application and it would appear that the council failed to take all relevant information into account when reaching their decision.
  • Within a week of HCC’s decision to grant planning permission (previously declared urgent so as to meet a September 2018 opening target), the school postponed its opening by 12 months. This decision was well before the legal case had been registered. Now, in the face of a case where their actions can be examined in court, the Interested Party has requested an expedited hearing citing potential risks to the timetable they themselves delayed.
  • The plans not only very significantly affect some people who live in the shadow of the proposed development but equally affect residents and road users from a very wide area. The traffic impact and travel costs are predicted to be significant for a school which has no demand in its vicinity, and for which substantially more sustainable solutions have been ignored by the Council.

David Cairns is the Claimant in this matter and is also the chair of Right School Right Place (RSRP) which is a residents group formed in 2013. He is seeking support towards legal costs incurred in pursuing this Judicial Review claim. The case is moving rapidly and Mr Cairns has found his claim is being contested not only by Hertfordshire CC as a Planning Authority, but now also by HCC as an Interested Party together with the Department for Education through the Education and Skills Funding Agency. While all three are entitled to contest, they are introducing new arguments (and additional costs).

Combined with the request to expedite/have a rolled-up hearing (on grounds of urgency) in July 2018, this means that costs are not only increasing, but need to be met quickly in order to ensure a full presentation of the case. I am therefore seeking funding by early July. The initial target will go towards Counsel’s costs and court fees. The stretch target will then continue to support Counsel’s costs in the first instance, plus the legal team's costs when that amount has been reached.

Your donations will be paid over by Crowdjustice directly to the solicitors. Thank-you.

Update 4

David Cairns

July 10, 2018

JR Update, 10th July 2018

Again, thank-you to all supporters.  

Today was the first day in court. 

PLANNING COURT

COURT 18
Before MRS JUSTICE LANG
Tuesday 10 July, 2018
At half past 10

APPLICATION(s)
CO/1681/2018 The Queen on the application of Cairns v Hertfordshire County Council
Applications for Permission
CO/1681/2018 The Queen on the application of Cairns v Hertfordshire County Council

After a full day in court, the session resumes tomorrow 11th July

PLANNING COURT

COURT 18
Before MRS JUSTICE LANG
Wednesday 11 July, 2018
At half past 10

Applications for Permission
PART HEARD
CO/1681/2018 The Queen on the application of Cairns v Hertfordshire County Council


Update 3

David Cairns

July 9, 2018

Permission Hearing Tuesday 10th July

And a huge thank-you to everyone who has contributed recently – thank-you  again.

The fund swiftly moved through the 100th on-line donation to a fund total of almost £5000 and still rising in the last 24 hours.  A day in court is certainly a financial challenge and we still have some way to go.

David Cairns is in the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday 10th July for the JR Permission Hearing. There has been so much work going on behind the scenes to read and prepare papers.  Several people are planning to go to London for the Permission Hearing.  It is a rolled-up hearing, so if permission is granted, the main hearing will be scheduled ‘immediately’ although as yet it is not on the court lists and we're not sure exactly what immediately means in this instance.

You can see the Permission hearing in the daily court list for 10th July (Royal Courts of Justice Cause List)

PLANNING COURT

COURT 18
Before MRS JUSTICE LANG
Tuesday 10 July, 2018
At half past 10
APPLICATION(s)
CO/1681/2018 The Queen on the application of Cairns v Hertfordshire County Council
Applications for Permission
CO/1681/2018 The Queen on the application of Cairns v Hertfordshire County Council

https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/court-lists/list-cause-rcj

So all the focus is on this hearing in London, and fund-raising to cover legal costs.

Please continue to

  • tell your contacts about the legal challenge/CrowdJustice and ask them to pledge even £5 if they can
  • Share the link (https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-batford-farm-fields/) on Facebook (search Right School Right Place), Twitter (@RSRPBatford), your messaging apps, email....
  • share your support in social media..

As always, thank-you so much for your support! Every £ makes a difference. Please help this important cause by spreading the word about the challenge, in whatever way you can. Thank-you.

For detailed background and history on the campaign, please see www.rsrp.co.uk

Update 2

David Cairns

July 8, 2018

Preparing for Court

These images illustrate the environmental impact, on the highly visible site with potential nationally important archaeology.  Significant terraforming is proposed to produce level areas for sports fields at the top of the site. The current street scene, and then the graphic is proposed contours on the left, current contours on the right ...

A huge thank-you to everyone who has helped and contributed to being almost half-way to David’s stretch target.  Much of the ill treatment of residents by the Council can and will be repeated if the Council are not held to account for their actions.  Help us to hold them to account now. Support this challenge.

This case is important locally, to road users, to families in the school planning area, but also for the away school places are determined across Hertfordshire.  David just wants a sensible solution to school places.

It’s been a while since the last update, but it’s also been very busy.  The legal team and volunteers have been dealing with the 3 sets of case papers from the defendant and interested parties.  This means considerable time and cost in reviewing grounds, papers, taking care of the details.  Skeleton arguments are now in preparation for the first court date, 10th July. This is the day when the judge will determine whether to allow the full hearing, so a lot rests on the preparations.

The thing about a rolled-up hearing is yes, the whole thing will be determined quickly, which means quickest answers. The downside is that David must prepare for the full case, whether or not the full case is allowed on the 10th.  This means that he must bear the full costs of preparing for and holding the hearing even if it doesn’t happen.  Arguably this is more onerous for an individual than for the 3 much larger parties that are being challenged.

The comments, donations in envelopes through the door and more have been so heartening

“it’s the least I can do, David and his team have been working so hard for our community”

“We are all shocked at the way the council has treated Batford”

“ I just wish I could afford more”

“Thank-you for everything you do on our behalf”

are just some of the personal messages arriving off line. It’s become a real-life David and Goliath tale.

The RSRP web site www.rsrp.co.uk holds extensive history and is being updated, albeit more slowly  than facebook (search Right School Right Place). @RSRPBatford on Twitter is another way to share.  Please help share the story however you can and raise even more support for this important cause.


  

Update 1

David Cairns

June 26, 2018

Initial target reached!

Huge and heartfelt thanks to everyone who has pledged and enabled David to achieve his initial target so very very quickly, within 3 days. Away from this Crowdjustice campaign, David has also been touched by the anonymous £5 and £10 contributions through the letter box. If he could thank those contributors too, he would.

  

The 'stretch' target supports immediate costs associated with the expedited High Court hearing on 10th and 11th July (Counsel’s, plus legal team's costs) - necessary because David’s legal team must fully prepare for a potential full hearing, regardless of the Permission Hearing outcome.   

These last weeks have seen a lot of effort reading papers and preparing responses – with further preparation ongoing.

David is in this position because

  • His claim is being contested not only by Hertfordshire CC as a Planning Authority, but now also by HCC as an Interested Party together with the Department for Education through the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
  • While all three are entitled to contest, they are introducing new arguments (and additional costs)
  • The Interested Party has requested an expedited hearing citing potential risks to the timetable they themselves delayed (1).
  • This means that costs are not only increasing, but need to be met very quickly in order to ensure a full presentation of the case.

(1) Within a week of HCC’s decision to grant planning permission (previously declared urgent so as to meet a September 2018 opening target), the school postponed its opening by 12 months. (This decision was well before the legal case had been registered).

So, once again, thank-you so much for your continued support which is really really appreciated.

Every £ makes a difference. Please help this important cause by continuing to spread the word about the legal challenge, and this fundraising,  in whatever way you can. Thank-you. 

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