MICHAEL LILLEY

Taking Action

for Communities and Environment

Destruction of ancient farmland and ecological habitat Westridge Farm by West Acre Park development 2021

Save Westridge Farmland Campaign

Crowdfunding – Save Westridge Farm Campaign (crowdjustice.com)

Pre-Action Protocol Letter dated 29th August 2023

OntheWight article re residents’ legal team issuing letter of intent to IW Council to seek Judicial Review

Community Action website – Save Westridge Farm

Community Facebook – Save Westridge Farm

There are 3 days to go before the deadline for Judicial Review is up (6 weeks from 4th August) and the Lawyers retained by Ryde Appley and Elmfield residents are busy preparing the bundles of evidence to go to Court.

The funding campaign is showing £32,135 but this has been matched by 5 generous donations of £1000 and this means the total is £37,135 and the campaign to get to court is £2165. So close now and the team behind the campaign is furiously working hard to meet the target of £39,300.

It is important to reflect what this case is about and how historic this test case is! It is about Island residents (the people) trying to take back control of a planning process that simply ignores their objections and voices. It is about climate change and the importance of preserving nature, the biosphere and environment for future generations.

The legal challenge ( Pre-Action Protocol Letter dated 29th August 2023 ) to the West Acre Park Planning Application to build 472 on historic green fields and farmlands is based on the following grounds as set out in the Pre-Action Letter:

  1. Ground 1: The conduct of the meeting of the Planning Committee on 21 July 2021 was unlawful, vitiating the purported resolution to grant planning permission.
  2. Ground 2: The conduct of a specific Councillor (Chair of meeting on 21 July 2021) in his involvement in the decision-making process was tainted by apparent bias or by an improper motive. Actions by the Chair were unlawful
  3. Ground 3: The Council’s approach to the section 106 Planning Obligation was unlawful

The tragedy of this case and the length of time it has taken to get to the stage when residents have one last chance to challenge a planning approval by seeking Judicial Review is the reality a tenant farming family lost their livelihood and home. Three generations of tenant diary farmers who cared for this environmentally and strategic important land had no option but to settle with developers and leave. The sheer cumulation of Covid19, Brexit, cost-living crisis and living in the shadow of a planning application for 472 houses just was too much for a small dairy farm to survive. Farming is a 24 hour job and to mentally survive these past 4 years with the Sword of Damocles over you is impossible.

The working farm closing did not deter local residents who always saw that this farmland and green space was important for the whole community, it was to them a community asset. They observed a flawed planning and brutal process that did not properly take into account over 500 material objections and 1000s of residents who signed petitions. There seemed to be a railroading mentality by the local authority to get this planning application approved at all costs under the guise of “need for affordable housing” outweighing the environmental and coastal implications alongside the total lack of local infrastructure to sustain such a development. Residents sought legal advice and started their campaign to seek justice. Experienced lawyers were shocked by the case and confirmed residents’ views that the process appeared to be unlawful. They had a case.

The local authority is used to and fears appeals by wealthy applicants but it seems to me does not expect ordinary residents taking action. Crowdfunding is a tool that enables residents in such cases to come together and in this cases 705 pledges of funding from ordinary people who really care about social justice and the environment/climate change.

They believe like I do that this approval decision to build 472 houses is ethically, morally, environmentally, and legally wrong. They want their voices heard and not afraid to go to the High Court shortly to get this case heard for the sake of future generations. They are brave and courageous and deserve support. As their locally elected councillor I stand absolutely solidly behind them.

IW Council in my view issued consent on the 4th August (Friday) at a time when Covid is on the increase and during school holidays to wrong foot residents. The clock was ticking from the 4th (Friday) for a 6 week window to get to the High Court. By issuing on a Friday, 2 days were immediately lost to residents. I believe the Council knew it was practically impossible for residents to raise the funds needed to employ lawyers to get to the High Court. I am sure they were convinced residents would fail and the whole case would fall.

Well, they are wrong, there is 3 days to go and the lawyers are prepared. This is real people power!

Please do click onto the CrowdJustice site and help my residents in their fight for justice!

Crowdfunding – Save Westridge Farm Campaign (crowdjustice.com)

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