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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Knowle relocation project: crowd-funding campaign launched >>> legal challenge to rejection of application to list Knowle park as an Asset of Community Value

A couple of months ago, a couple of things happened around the Knowle relocation project:
Judge orders "unhelpful" Devon council to release relocation documents | Western Morning News
Tribunal’s decision, on Knowle ‘secret’ papers, featured on Radio Devon News. | East Devon Watch
www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DBFiles/Decision/i1540/East Devon District Council EA.2014.0072 (05.05.2015).pdf

And:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: an application to list Knowle park as an Asset of Community Value: rejected by District Council

The District Council did offer the Town Council the remaining part of the Knowle parkland:

14. As part of the negotiations with Sidmouth Town Council on land transfer, a covenant be proposed to ensure that the land is not built on and remains as public open space

eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1141151/030615-extra-ordinary-council-agenda-relocation.pdf

19: Knowle – Transfer of Public Open Space to Sidmouth Town Council 
The Town Clerk read a letter received from Richard Cohen, EDDC Deputy Chief Executive formally inviting the Town Council to commence detailed discussion on the District Council’s intention to transfer 3.516 hectares of Knowle Parkland and the lower car park to Sidmouth Town Council. A letter from Nick Wright, EDDC Economy Practice Manager reported that a recent nomination for land at Knowle Park to be registered as an Asset of Community Value had been unsuccessful. 
RESOLVED: That the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Town Clerk be authorised to commence negotiations with the District Council with a view to transfer Knowle Parkland to the Town Council.

Town Council Meetings - Sidmouth Town Council
www.sidmouth.gov.uk/images/Mins-STCAnnual-180515.pdf

In which case, it could be read that the District Council regards the Knowle parkland as 'an asset of community value'...

A crowd-funding campaign has now been launched to challenge the District Council.

Click on the link Save historic Knowle Parkland - CrowdJustice if you wish to contribute:


Save historic Knowle Parkland


East Devon District Council are trying to grab historic parkland for development

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has a shameful record of going against local opinion in selling off its assets – and failing to live up to its promises to be ‘transparent’. The latest episode is its appropriation of public open space for housing in the historic parkland of Knowle in Sidmouth.
The Council has now rejected an application to list the grounds as an Asset of Community Value – and this is what we want to challenge.
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What's happened and why we're considering legal action

The Council announced as far back as 2007 to sell off its HQ at Knowle in Sidmouth and relocate – but its indecisiveness and secrecy has simply served to infuriate the people of East Devon.
In September 2012, English Heritage turned down an application to give Knowle Grade II listing: “The alterations that have occurred both to the gardens and the house mean that neither meets the criteria for designation in a national context, though they are evidently highly-valued by the local community.”
In November 2012, 4,000 people marched on the Knowle to show their outrage at development proposals.
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In March 2013 the Council’s own planning committee rejected the Council’s own planning permission to build on the Knowle site, on several grounds, including: ‘The proposed development incorporates the construction of dwellings on parts of the site currently used as an area of open space which forms an important amenity for residents of Sidmouth and should be retained for the benefit of the community.’
Nevertheless, in March of this year, the Council appropriated a substantial part of the parkland at Knowle for housing which drew a huge amount of protest – all of which was ignored.
In response, an application was made to list all the Knowle grounds as an Asset of Community Value.
Predictably, this was rejected by the Council.

Freedom of Information campaign

This is all in the context of a two-year Freedom of Information campaign to get the Council to release secret reports on its Knowle relocation project: in May this year, the Information Tribunal demanded the release of key documents – after the Judge found the Council ‘discourteous and unhelpful’.
The Council have by their own admission faced the most number of Freedom of Information requests in Devon and their response to the Information Tribunal was woefully inadequate.
Following these latest events, it is clear that the Council will continue to play its games and must be challenged once again.
Fundamentally, this is about due process.

The legal action

We are challenging the Council’s decision to refuse the application to list the Knowle parkland as an Asset of Community Value. It is clear that they failed to apply the law as set out in the Localism Act – nor have they provided adequate reasons for their rejection.
A formal letter from the same lawyers used by the campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage would force the Council to provide proper answers.
This is the first step in the process – and there may be further calls to take this case forward.
Help us use the law to support the continuing campaign to insist that EDDC are open with the public. We must not allow EDDC to constantly get away with dismissing what they don’t like. They are showing contempt to the law and contempt to the public. They must be called to account.

How much we are raising and what it is for

We are raising £660 to draft a pre-action protocol letter setting out the legal errors in the Council's decision. 
The specialist legal practice of Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law has been recommended to us by campaigning group SAVE Britain’s Heritage.

Save historic Knowle Parkland - CrowdJustice

The crowd-funding website Crowd Justice has itself just been launched - and is obviously determined to make waves:
CrowdJustice - Crowdfund public interest law
Is crowdfunded litigation the future of justice? | Joshua Rozenberg | Comment is free | The Guardian
Is 'crowd-funded' justice the way forward? - The Justice Gap | The Justice Gap
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1 comment:

Carmel decroz said...

In the last few years, crowdfunding campaign has become an extremely popular means of raising money for individuals and organisations alike.