Campaigners challenge South Bank 'village green' refusal

A campaign group whose request to register part of London's South Bank as a village green was refused by the London Borough of Lambeth has launched a legal challenge against the decision.

The Undercroft: campaigners oppose redevelopment plan
The Undercroft: campaigners oppose redevelopment plan

The move by Long Live South Bank is being seen as the first test of tightened rules on "town and village green" designations after the Commons Act 2006 was amended by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.

The group is seeking to protect the undercroft area of the Southbank Centre’s Festival Wing from redevelopment after plans were unveiled that would see a new events space in the area which is traditionally used by BMX bikers, skateboarders and graffiti artists.

In particular, the group wants a Judicial Review to look at the basis for Lambeth Council’s decision in September that the application had been "invalid" under the Growth and Infrastructure Act’s amendments. 

At the time, Lambeth Council said: "The decision that the application is invalid is based on the legal principle that the right to apply to register land as a town or village green is excluded where a ‘trigger event’ relating to the land in question has occurred without a corresponding ‘terminating event’ having occurred."

In a typical example, the right to apply for village green status is extinguished when an application for planning permission is first publicised - the ‘trigger event’ - and the exclusion remains in place while the decision is still to be made or if permission is granted - the ‘terminating event’.

The council's decision was based on advice from George Laurence QC, citing a 2005 planning application for "skateable structures" in relation to the land, and policies and draft development plan policies for Waterloo and the South Bank Centre that identified the land for potential development.

Simon Ricketts, partner at King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin - which is acting for Long Live South Bank, said questions about the validity of the trigger events, and the detail involved in the planning documents needed to be explored by the High Court.

He added that the case would have potentially wide-reaching implications.

"It’s the first one that focuses on the changes made by the Growth and Infrastructure Act, so it will be an important test for the use of ‘trigger events’," he said.

Lambeth Council today confirmed that it received notification of the Judicial Review request and said it would respond to the High Court within three weeks.

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