On 9th June 2016 Ian Tucker, the representative of Mistley residents who secured the registration of Mistley Quay as a Village Green following a public inquiry in 2013, succeeded in obtaining a Protective Costs Order from the High Court. Such costs orders are considered “exceptional” and are only granted where there is a clear public interest. This order will protect Ian Tucker against personal liability to pay the costs of the legal proceedings brought by TW Logistics Ltd (“TWL”). These proceedings, which are due to be heard in the High Court in a 7-day hearing starting in early July, seek to cancel the registration of Mistley Quay as a Village Green.
Supported by Free the Quay (“FTQ”), 18 local residents and former residents gave evidence at the 8-day public inquiry held in Mistley in 2013 at which the Inspector was satisfied that the Quay had been used for lawful sports and pastimes for more than 20 years (the statutory requirement for registration). The Quay was consequently registered as a Village Green by Essex County Council (“ECC”) on the Inspector’s recommendation.
If Ian Tucker’s application had not succeeded, he would have been forced to withdraw from the current proceedings in which the evidence given by local residents at the Inquiry will be challenged by TWL and new evidence will be given by TWL. The threat to Ian Tucker of being ordered to pay for the whole or part of the costs of TWL (amounting to more than £280,000) if TWL’s application to cancel the registration was successful was not a financial risk any individual could reasonably be expected to meet. The likely amount of the costs is also beyond the fundraising capabilities of the local community. The maximum liability to TWL’s costs has now been capped at £10,000 by the Court’s order. Ian Tucker said: “It is wonderful that the Court has decided that our representation is in the public interest in the exceptional circumstances of this case. We now have the opportunity of a fair hearing.”
Essex County Council are also defending the proceedings but their defence is limited to the evidence given at the original Inquiry and the Inspector’s report. ECC had originally indicated to local residents that they would vigorously defend the action and it is a disappointment to all those who live in Mistley that the Council eventually decided not to do so. The new evidence introduced by TWL will not be challenged or tested by ECC.
Simon Bullimore, Chairman of FTQ said: “It is a great disappointment that ECC, in their desire to maintain a strictly neutral position, decided that they would not support the large number of local residents in this action. Our Councillor, Carlo Guglielmi has recognised the breadth and depth of local feeling on the issue and supported us throughout our negotiations with ECC.”
Now that it is clear that local residents will have a proper voice in the defence of these proceedings, which FTQ is confident will not succeed, fundraising activities will continue with a renewed sense of purpose. In addition to outstanding legal expenses, the costs of appearing at the hearing in July will have to be met. The sustained fundraising over the last 7 years was an important factor in obtaining the High Court order as it was evidence of the strength of public interest in the issue.
Nancy Bell who lives on Mistley Quay and who has been one of the prime movers in fundraising for FTQ said:” We are really grateful for the way that the community continues to support us in this battle which has been going for nearly 8 years. 50 boats and 500 people turned out for our Rally at the beginning of May and we have a programme of fundraising activities for the summer which we are confident will make a very positive contribution to our fundraising goals”.
The next event planned is the Secret Gardens of Mistley on 26 June when 17 gardens will be open to the public. The third FTQ Jazz Picnic will take place on 24 July. Details of these events can be found here