Press Response to Charlotte Leslie MP 6/11/13
Where was Charlotte Leslie, MP when the planning application for Sainsbury’s Horfield was submitted in May 2012? Fast forward 17 months and her “bandwagon” petition has arrived.
Ms Leslie appears to have an underlying motive. A motive to smear TRASHorfield in order to push a much wider political agenda. Ms Leslie has made no attempt whatsoever to speak to TRASHorfield directors or members, indeed her inaccurate and indiscriminate campaign against TRASHorfield would suggest she has not even undertaken due diligence with regards to the facts of the matter.
When two TRASHorfield directors and constituents of Ms Leslie met with her at their request last week to challenge some of the accusations made by Ms Leslie, including misinforming the public about intentions towards bankruptcy and being ‘anti-stadium’, their understanding was that Ms Leslie appeared to acknowledge fault for using this misinformation on the petition website and in the various articles published in her name. Clearly, her latest article suggests it was wrong to assume the campaign of misinformation would cease.
The Coalition Government recently brought about a number of changes making it increasingly difficult to pursue a Judicial Review (JR), pedalling the myth that this was a runaway ‘growth industry’, erroneously citing left wing campaigners as the problem. These changes represent a cynical way to hinder a democratic right to pursue the injustices of unlawful decision making. In fact planning JR’s represent less than 2% of the whole when it comes to all JR applications, and the rate of planning JR’s has been more or less stable.
It is ‘misleading’ for Ms Leslie to state planning JR’s have only a 3 -11% chance of ‘winning’. It makes no sense to look at JR stats in this way. Each case is judged on its own merits, and to proceed to a full hearing the case must be ‘arguable’. There are no ‘trends’ in the statistics for this precise reason. We were informed by our lawyers that our prospects of success are greater than 50%, and we are not misleading our supporters by saying so. We now all await the Judges’ decision on whether there is a case to be answered.
Ms Leslie dismisses the grounds of the JR as small ‘technicalities’. They are not. As stated on the TRASHorfield website, the grounds of the JR include the Council’s misrepresentation of the advice received from their retail consultant and the use of a ‘immaterial’ retail mitigation package to offset the accepted significant retail impact on the Gloucester Road town centre. Does Ms Leslie believe the correct assessment of the retail impact on the viability and vitality of the Gloucester Road is a small technicality?
In making a claim for Judicial Review TRASHorfield are not speculating. It was first ensured that the local community wanted to do so. TRASHorfield gained 1000 more signatures objecting to the development before the committee meeting than those in support. The number of people who turned up wanting to make representations of objection at the committee stage was unprecedented and put the procedure into a tailspin. Councillor Daniella Radice was elected with a massive ballot box swing and a key focus for her campaign was objecting to this very development This is democracy.
But a Judicial Review itself is no popularity contest – it is a point of law – did the Council act legally?
To advise on this point TRASHorfield naturally chose to instruct outstanding environmental planning experts. This issue Ms Leslie is correct about; TRASHorfield have instructed the same law firm that assisted in bringing the JR to hold Bristol City Council to account for failing to consider fairly post-inquiry evidence. In that case the Council was forced to concede its actions were unlawful and the matter returned to the Inspector. Ms Leslie incorrectly implies these lawyers are operating on a ‘no win no fee basis’. What exactly is galling to Ms Leslie about the exposure of wrongdoing?
TRASHorfield would argue that what is galling is that supermarkets and politicians are exploiting the understandable enthusiasm of football fans to achieve their own ends.
In pursuing a Judicial Review we do not undermine democracy. Judicial Review is a ‘keystone’ of the democratic process. As it stands the planning system is weighted in favour of the applicant, giving them the opportunity to appeal if a Development Control Committee turns down an application. Should TRASHorfield not succeed at Judicial Review, we have raised sufficient funds to immediately pay the £10,000 Protective Costs Order agreed with Bristol City Council for their legal costs. Similarly, if TRASHorfield win, Bristol City Council will not be liable for all our costs, such is the Law.
The Conservative Party would like to remove our rights as embodied in the Judicial Review to challenge those who govern us. That is what we believe has initiated Ms Leslie’s campaign – after all if Ms Leslie had taken a moment to ask us she would know that TRASHorfield do not oppose a new stadium for Bristol Rovers; TRASHorfield oppose a Goliath Sainsbury’s on the Memorial Ground.