The journey to register Leach Grove Wood as a Village Green was started back in 2013 by Flip Cargill and the Leatherhead Resident’s Association.
Following an inquiry that lasted five days in 2015 Surrey County Council agreed to register the woodland as a village green under the Commons Act 2006.
This was a great moment for the local people who had fought NHS Property Service Ltd, who now own the land and who strongly resisted registration of it as a Village Green.
The NHS Property Services applied for a judicial review of Surrey County Council’s decision to conserve the woodland for recreational purposes. Flip Cargill returned to Tasmania, having lived in Leatherhead 25 years, and I stepped into her shoes to defend Leach Grove Wood as the Interested Party in the ensuing proceedings. The High Court granted the application for judicial review, then quashed the registration on the grounds of statutory incompatibility.
Our barrister, Dr Ashley Bowes, asked the judge for leave to appeal before the judgement was made public, and leave was granted by Mr Justice Gilbart. So now I am the appellant in the court of appeal seeking to overturn the High Court decision and enable Leach Grove Wood to have its status as a Village Green restored.
Our case will be heard on 4th and 5th of October. This is a particularly important case and will be heard jointly with Lancaster County Council, the Secretary of State, and Janine Bebbington. This is a similar case of registration as a Village Green. Both are dealing with this question of whether as a matter of statutory interpretation, Town and Village Greens cannot be registered if:
1) they are owned by public bodies performing their statutory functions
2) the recreational use of the land would be incompatible with that purpose.
There was recent case where a beach could not be registered because the port authority needed to be able to dredge the harbour in order to keep it open to shipping. We do not see how keeping a few acres of woodland open for people to continue to walk and enjoy the woods, as they have done for many decades, is incompatible with the provision of health services in Leatherhead. In fact conserving the woodland is surely more beneficial to the health and well being of the people of Leatherhead than the NHS either selling it off, or retaining it for development purposes.
Our lawyers are acting on a conditional fee arrangement which means that if we lose the case in the Court of Appeal they will not get paid, and I will have incurred expenses and will have to pay up to £10,000 towards the NHS’s costs.
This is why I am asking for support, to bring this important case to the Court of Appeal in the hope of stopping a dangerous precedent being set and, of course, to protect Leach Grove Wood too.
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