Appeal Court victory for Mole Valley woodland campaigners

Appeal Court victory for Mole Valley woodland campaigners

The Court of Appeal has ruled against NHS Property Services trying to prevent a cherished area of greenspace in Leatherhead – Leach Grove Wood – being given statutory protection from development.

Local resident Flip Cargill and the Leatherhead Residents Association (LRA), supported by the Surrey Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), applied several years ago to register the common land close to Leatherhead Hospital as a ‘village green’ under the Commons Act 2006. Surrey County Council (SCC) agreed to register it, giving Leach Grove Wood protection under the law.

Then, last year, NHS Property Services initiated a Judicial Review of SCC’s. Leatherhead resident Tim Jones stepped forward as an ‘Interested Party’ to represent the community campaign for Leach Grove Wood, supported by CPRE Surrey. Unfortunately, SCC lost the subsequent case in the High Court, but Dr Ashley Bowes of Cornerstone Barristers, on behalf of Mr Jones, asked for permission to appeal against this decision, and this was granted. Mr Jones was the Appellant in this second case as SCC were constrained by costs from taking part in the proceedings. It was joined with a similar case in Lancashire where an attempt had been made to prevent a village green being registered – this case involving Lancashire County Council (LCC) in its role as local education authority.

This week the Court of Appeal found in favour of Tim Jones and the Leach Grove Wood campaigners. Costs were awarded to Mr Jones and to SCC from the High Court case.

Andy Smith, Surrey Branch Director of CPRE, commented: “Leach Grove Wood is now protected as a village green under the Commons Act and is open to anyone and everyone to walk and play there. This would not have been possible without Flip Cargill who championed the cause of Leach Grove Wood originally and to Tim Jones for taking up the mantle in the recent court cases. And huge congratulations to Dr Ashley Bowes of Cornerstone Barristers and solicitor Kristina Kenworthy of Richard Buxton Environmental Law.

“This was a major landmark case and our victory at the Appeal Court shows that, even with their vast financial and other resources, government agencies and developers can be beaten by small groups of local people, and the countryside can be protected from development. As the philosopher Voltaire said, ‘God is not on the side of the big battalions but of the best shots!’ Leach Grove Wood is a victory for local communities and countryside campaigners throughout Surrey.”


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