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Residents Triumph In Final Court Decision Over Long-Running Development Row

Lawyers Secure Landmark Victory For Redcar Residents As Highest Court In Land Preserves Green Space


Residents Triumph In Final Court Decision Over Long-Running Development Row

A group of local campaigners have won their six-year planning battle with their council over plans for a major development on green space on the Redcar seafront after five judges from the highest court in the UK unanimously backed their legal challenge.

In a landmark judgement which could have far-reaching implications for other local campaigners, the new UK Supreme Court has today (Wednesday, March 3rd) ruled in favour of the Friends of Coatham Common in their fight to stop a £55m housing–led development being built on the green space at Redcar.

The five senior judges all ruled in favour of the campaigners and have now ordered that Redcar and Cleveland Council must register Coatham Common as a town or village green in a decision which experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented the campaigners, say will boost other local groups looking to protect green areas from development.

The land had been used for decades by the local community for sports and leisure but the Council argued that, because Cleveland Golf Club had used part of the land for the first and eighteenth holes until 2002, that prevented the residents from registering the land.

But ruling against the Council, the Supreme Court decided that the use by the golfers was irrelevant and that, because all users had respected each other, everybody could enjoy the land simultaneously.

The residents fought through a public inquiry and the lower courts right up to the highest court in the land in a bid to stop a £55m housing estate on Coatham Common, which the Council wanted to build, together with its partner Persimmon Homes.

But those plans have been dashed now that the land will be designated as a green space, saving if from development, as any house-building would be incompatible with its new formal status as a town or village green.

The news was greeted with delight by one of the leaders of The Friends of Coatham Common, Charlie Davis, himself a former Redcar and Cleveland councillor, who said: "This is amazing. After years of battling to save this green space, where generations of Coatham people have played football and cricket, we have finally won the day.

"We now call on the Council to work with us to make this green space a worthy memorial to our greatly missed late MP, Mo Mowlam. Some people may regard us as NIMBYs, but green space in this highly industrial region should be cherished and protected."

Andrew Lockley, Partner and Head of Public Law at Irwin Mitchell, who acted for the residents, said: "I pay tribute to the steely determination of the people of Coatham, who have finally triumphed through setback after setback.

"In the process they have clarified the law twice. This victory means that other groups who want to use green space and preserve it from development will find it easier to do so. This is a very good day for local campaigners who care about protecting green space in their community."

The Coatham Common controversy had rumbled on throughout most of the last decade until, despite being adjacent to a Special Protected Area (SPA) – a marine area of European importance for birds – planning permission was granted for the development in 2007, just as local elections saw the Liberal Democrat-led coalition replaced by a Labour majority.

The coalition had backed the £55m development and signed a development contract just before leaving office which local people claimed had tied the hands of the next administration.

The Friends of Coatham Common then sought to register the land as a village green but, after the Council refused, brought a Judicial Review in the High Court on the basis that Redcar and Cleveland Council acted unlawfully in refusing to register the land as a town or village green. The residents were unsuccessful there and in the Court of Appeal.

But they then appealed to the new UK Supreme Court which has given today's judgement following a three-day hearing of that appeal in January, over which Lord Hope, the Deputy President of the Supreme Court, presided.

The disputed land is also adjacent to Redcar beach, used as a main location for scenes in the 2006 blockbuster film 'Atonement'.

Charles George QC. Jeremy Pike and Cain Ormondroyd of London Chambers Francis Taylor Building were instructed by Irwin Mitchell to represent the Friends.