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Community loses Warren Farm court case


The appeal against Ealing council’s plan for Warren Farm failed in the High Court on 13th May. The judge found simply that Ealing council’s actions were not unlawful – he did not find that their actions were justified or would benefit the community.

The appeal, brought by Hanwell residents, was intended to prevent Ealing council closing down community football and cricket pitches at Warren Farm and handing over the whole public open space to Queens Park Rangers football club, with 2/3 to be used as a private training facility. See below the press release from the Save Warren Farm campaign for more information.

Supporters of the Brent River Park will be appalled to know that while the process of giving away Warren Farm was going on, the (Labour) council has been trying to write the Brent River Park out of the Local Plan and out of existence. Warren Farm is part of the Brent River Park, contrary to claims made by certain politicians.

Supporters may also like to know that having beaten them in court, the (Labour) council spitefully applied for costs against the voluntary community representatives. £5,000 costs were awarded, to be split between Ealing council and QPR. The costs could have been larger but for a piece of legislation (based on the Aarhus Convention) designed to prevent crippling claims against community groups such as BRCS.

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Press release from Save Warren Farm campaign (adapted)

Court turns down community challenge of Ealing Council’s decisions on QPR Training Academy

Tuesday 14 May 2014:

Save Warren Farm campaigners yesterday were disappointed at the outcome of the Hearing for a Judicial Review of Ealing Council’s decision-making around the leasing of the Borough’s best community sports field to Queen’s Park Rangers FC for 200 years at no rent. Mr Justice Ouseley, presiding over one of the first cases to be heard by the newly instated Planning Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, considered the case in more detail than was anticipated and concluded that Ealing Council had not acted unlawfully in disposing of Warren Farm.

This news comes at a sensitive time in the week before the local election on Thursday 22 May. Labour-run Ealing Council has approved planning permission and signed a development agreement with QPR who will build their elite training and academy headquarters on designated Metropolitan Open Land, London’s green belt. Warren Farm is 61 acres of publicly-owned land, currently laid down, in its entirety, to community playing fields. Under the deal with QPR, two thirds of the land will be for the exclusive use of the club for their elite sports and only one third of the land, with access controlled by QPR, will be available to the community. Further, this open green space, formerly accessible to all, will be fenced off behind 8 foot high, opaque, security fencing. It is noted that QPR will not sign the lease until after the development has been completed.

Carolyn Brown, Chair of Hanwell Community Forum, who brought the case on behalf of the community said: “The decision at today’s Hearing was deeply disappointing, although not at all surprising. On the surface of it, the Council appears to have done everything that they needed to do in the process. However, consulting residents in only one Ward, when the impact of the loss of these community playing fields will affect the whole Borough, and holding key meetings before and immediately after the Christmas period, and during the August holiday period, were all actions that helped to ensure that it was as difficult as possible for the Community to challenge the Council effectively. And they have acted as both judge and jury when scrutinising their own decision-making.

Ealing Council has seriously undervalued the 61 acre site at £1.8-2.25M, say campaigners – the equivalent in value, to a single large house in central Ealing. The Council claimed the land – the vast majority of which has been untouched except by the plough, since the Bronze Age – was a brownfield site. The approved plans will see QPR develop buildings of controversial design, unsuitable for Metropolitan Open Land, at the highest point of Warren Farm, and the footprint of the built area being increased by 600%. Campaigners also note that the much reduced community space will no longer accommodate the large Borough-wide sports events, such as the annual APNA Primary Schools tournament (16 of Ealing’s primary schools fielding 34 teams) and the Tri-sport football/cricket/netball events run by the Tamil School Sports Association, which have taken place regularly at Warren Farm over the last decade or so.

Previously, at two ‘Meet Your Candidates’ events, Cllr Ian Potts, standing for the Conservatives in Hanwell’s Elthorne Ward made clear the Conservative position on Warren Farm. On hearing the outcome of the Hearing, he said, “Having called in two decisions on Warren Farm for scrutiny, we have clearly demonstrated deep concern that the deal with QPR is not in the best interests of the Borough. Should we be elected on 22 May,” Cllr Potts maintained, “We undertake to review and try to reverse the agreement with QPR, and do our best to address the issues around Warren Farm which have been expressed on many, many doorsteps during the election campaign.

Cllr Nigel Bakhai, standing for the LibDems in Elthorne, reacted strongly to the news of the judgment. “This was a terrible decision by the Council and now it’s been rubber-stamped by the Courts,” he asserted. “The residents of Hanwell have not been properly consulted, and the Council has to learn lessons from how badly they have run this process. The LibDems will do everything we can to stop this development going ahead,” he concluded.

Nic Ferriday, Chair of Brent River and Canal Society who attended the Hearing said: “Our overriding objection is that our Council is giving away our land to be fenced off and used by a private business. A short term financial crisis, that we are now coming out of, is not an acceptable reason for effectively giving away publicly-owned green space for the equivalent of seven generations.

Rheian Davies of DH Law, solicitors for Hanwell Community Forum said: “Thankfully Mr Justice Ouseley noted the controversy that this Council decision has caused amongst the community and recognised that this was an important environmental case, brought by a community group. As such he gave us cost protection, and awarded only the very limited costs capped at £5,000 to Ealing Council and QPR together. This means that it will not be too expensive in future to scrutinise the decisions the Council makes in such cases and we can continue to bring local authorities to account before the Courts.

If Warren Farm still goes ahead, amidst this furore, it is now for QPR to deliver the community facilities and true community engagement they have promised. And for Ealing Council to make sure that they do deliver that benefit to the surrounding community and to the London Borough of Ealing,” concluded Ms Brown.

People can still indicate their support for the campaign by contributing to the fund for legal costs, and/or by signing the petition opposing this development, by going onto the website at www.savewarrenfarm.com and following the links from the tab for support the campaign, to donate to the campaign or sign the petition.

Notes

1. Warren Farm Sports Centre (UB2 4NE) is located in the London Borough of Ealing, between Hanwell and Norwood Green, close to Osterley Park.

2. The petition can be signed at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-warren-farm-ealing-as-genuine-undeveloped-metro.html

3. Donations to the Judicial Review fund can be made online at www.savewarrenfarm.com

Posted May 18, 2014