Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell And Campaigners Succeed In Overturning Decision
Campaigners battling to save a community centre are celebrating after succeeding in their legal challenge against a council’s decision to close it.
Clair Hall in Haywards Heath was permanently closed following a decision made by Mid Sussex District Council last September.
One of the campaigners opposing the closure, who cannot be named for legal reasons, instructed public law and human rights experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate.
Solicitors at Irwin Mitchell applied to the High Court for a judicial review to examine the legality of the decision. They argued that the decision to close the hall was irrational and the local authority had acted unlawfully by not carrying out a consultation with the community beforehand. It was also argued that the council had failed to have due regard to the impact of the closure decision on disabled people and children, as required by law.
The council agreed to reconsider its decision and the proceedings have therefore concluded. The council must now re-take the decision within 12 months and must not rely on the original closure decision in any way until such reconsideration has taken place. Clair Hall is currently being used by the NHS as a COVID-19 vaccination centre.
Expert Opinion“We’re delighted that the Mid Sussex District Council has listened to the concerns of our client and the other campaigners, and will now withdraw the current plans to close Clair Hall and rethink the decision. The court has ordered that the council must not rely on its previous decision in any way.
“Like many other people in the community, our client, who is disabled, relies heavily on the hall to help him have any kind of social life. Due to severe mental health conditions, he ordinarily finds it incredibly difficult to get out and about. Clair Hall is just over a mile from his home and has provided him access to community activities he enjoys and hopes to do so again when lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“Closing the venue would take that away from him and means he would spend more time at home in isolation. He was deeply saddened to hear of the closure and believes the local authority acted unlawfully by not undertaking any consultation prior to their decision, despite a prior promise that it would do so.
“We’re therefore thankful to the council for working with us and the campaigners to reconsider this and acknowledge opinions of the local community. It was the outcome we hoped for.”
Rosie Campbell - Solicitor
In March 2020, Clair Hall was closed temporarily due to Covid-19 government restrictions.
In September, the Mid Sussex District Council submitted a report to its cabinet seeking a permanent closure of Clair Hall and to commence work on the future regeneration of the site. Reasons given included the venue was under-utilised and there were other facilities in the district, a claim disputed by the claimant and campaign group.
Marion Wilcock, director of the Haywards Heath Community CIC and member of the campaign group fighting to keep the hall open said: “We are delighted that, as a result of the judicial review proceedings brought by a member of our community, the council’s decision to close Clair Hall permanently no longer stands, and the council must re-take the decision within 12 months.
“That decision was made without any consultation and without proper consideration of the impact of the closure on the community. Clair Hall is more than just a building to us and has served as a much-loved community hub for decades. The actions of the council have sadly damaged the trust between itself and our community.
“As a result of the legal case, the council must now take the decision again, and we sincerely hope that this time it will abide by its legal duties to consult the community before any decision is made about the future of Clair Hall. We look forward to working together with the council.”