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• High Court orders a new consultation on the status of Udney Park Playing Fields

• High Court orders a new consultation on the status of Udney Park Playing Fields

Udney Park Playing Fields

In a judgment handed down in the High Court on 8 February, Mr Justice Waksman has quashed part of the London Borough of Richmond’s Local Plan concerning Udney Park Playing Fields in Teddington on the basis of an error resulting in “substantial prejudice to local residents”.

Following the removal of Local Green Space (LGS) status for Udney Park Playing Fields from the Richmond Local Plan process, the Friends of Udney Park Playing Fields (FUPPF) appealed for a Judicial Review of this decision. Quantum Group, which has bought the land for redevelopment, strongly opposed FUPPF in the High Court, arguing against LGS protection to enable its building plans to proceed.

But Mr Justice Waksman upheld FUPPF’s appeal and ordered a new consultation on the LGS status of Udney Park. He found that substantial prejudice had been demonstrated and made an Order quashing the relevant part of the Local Plan and requiring full public consultation on the proposed main modification, according to a prescribed timetable.

The Teddington Society and Friends of Udney Park applied for Local Green Space status, equivalent to Green Belt status, as part of the Richmond Local Plan, which sets the development strategy for 15 years. After a public consultation, the Council Cabinet adopted LGS for Udney Park in December 2016. The Local Plan was then subject to a Public Exam by a Planning Inspector, where the Council defended the LGS status and Quantum tried to remove it, arguing that Udney Park Playing Fields had “no recreational value”.

After the Public Exam the Inspector issued his Main Modifications, without referring to Udney Park; as a result, all parties assumed Udney Park’s LGS status would be maintained. However, in his Final Report, the very last stage of the Public Exam, the Inspector unexpectedly removed LGS from Udney – an act that has now been repealed by the Judge.

The Judgement
The Friends of Udney Park Playing Fields said afterwards, “Our case rested on the fact that the Inspector’s Main Modifications hid his intention to remove LGS from Udney and so denied the community a fair chance to argue the LGS case, in contrast to Quantum who as challenger of the Plan could lobby against LGS.

“Our barrister successfully argued that once the Inspector had secretly changed his mind about the LGS status of Udney Park, then the community themselves became a challenger to the Plan and had a right to be consulted, which it had been unfairly denied as the Inspector failed to mention his LGS decision in the Main Modifications, the final consultation window.

“After the Judge ruled unequivocally that our primary grounds for raising the Judicial Review were legally sound, crucially we had to prove we had suffered ‘substantial prejudice’, which means answering ‘could the outcome on the assessment of LGS have been different?’ We had to prove we had ample independent evidence that the Inspector had denied himself the chance to assess. The Judge concluded that this additional evidence could have impacted on the outcome of the assessment of Udney as LGS, that our case was good, and issued a Consent Order.”

What Happens Next with the Consent Order?
The Consent Order turns the clock back to October 2017, when the Council had approved Udney LGS. In the next two weeks, the Council will commence a new six-week consultation on the Inspector’s decision that had removed Udney LGS status from the Local Plan. We will then have six weeks to prepare our new Application for LGS, which will then be assessed by LBRuT and determined by a new Planning Inspector by 15th May.

So, to be clear, Udney Park doesn’t yet have its LGS back, but there is now a fresh chance to make the case on a fair and open basis. If LGS status is recovered, it will help the Council fulfil its own commitments in the Local Plan and provide further weight to its Objection in the forthcoming Public Inquiry into Quantum’s Planning Application, starting on June 24th.

Next steps
Councillors of all three parties were elected with manifesto commitments to keep Udney Park free from development. The adopted Local Plan also commits Council Officers to protect Udney. UPPF will be asking for another meeting with the Leader of Richmond Council, Councillors and Officers to ensure all of Quantum’s opponents – UPPF Trust, the Teddington Society, the GLA, Sport England and the Council – are aligned with “common ground” and with a consistent strategy to protect all of Udney Park at the Public Inquiry.

Ready to talk Plan B
Udney Park can be a successful community facility for all to enjoy without a developer’s carve-up. Quantum justifies its building plan by arguing that Udney Park is not viable without residential development – but thriving local clubs show this to be nonsense: Teddington CC and Teddington Athletic FC have started building a new £1.5 million pavilion in Bushy Park without any cash from a developer. FUPPF are working on Plan B, the only appropriate future for Udney Park.

London Sport’s 2019 strategy focuses on physical activity and social cohesion, and London must keep its playing pitches. Investing in building over playing fields is increasingly viewed as unethical, and large property firms and investment funds should steer clear of such schemes.

“We are ready to offer Quantum a way out of its toxic ‘punt’ on Teddington’s playing fields” say FUPPF. “Meanwhile, thank you to all who have donated so far to help us secure all of Udney Park for the community; this Judicial Review is a massive win in the war for the future of Udney Park.”

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