Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The truth will out...

Last week on Tuesday 25th November, at the High Court of appeal in London, the Coatham village green appeal was heard. This hearing followed the high court hearing in July this year, where the councils main argument for not registering the land as a village green, the erection of warning signs by the Golf Club in 1998 warning people of flying golf balls, was kicked out by the High Court. The council won slenderly on that occasion in July because of the judges uncertainty about the councils second reason for not registering the land as a village green, namely the issue of deferment by the public who have been openly using the land for centuries never mind decades, to the members of the Golf Club.

In 2006, the law regarding village greens and commons was changed. The things that prevented the bid to register the land in Coatham as a village green in 2005, no longer existed in law. This council knew this. They anticipated another village green challenge and so they desperately erected the fences at great cost to the public, in order to try and thwart the village green challenge and then sought legal advice to try and come up with any argument that they could to try and beat it in the court case that they knew would inevitably come.

The fact is, that the public who have used that land never defered to the golfers. The council know this. That is why this issue of deferment wasn't even raised at the original village green public inquiry in 2005/06, where even members of the Golf Club themselves stated to the inquiry, that the public used the land and didnt defer to the golfers and that it was always a case of peaceful co-existance.

Here is a link to the Gazette web page regarding the appeal hearing.

There are a few things to be noted with this article.

Firstly, for possibly the the first time, an article written about Coatham, refers to the "many" who are in opposition to this housing scheme.

Secondly, it describes this scheme as exactly what it is, a Housing scheme. It does not attempt to try and make out that as a result of these houses being built, the people of Redcar will get all of the leisure facilities that they have been trying to make out we will get, in past articles about Coatham.

And lastly, it uses the phrase "covered in concrete" which for me, is most significant of all. Newspapers do have agendas of their own. They can influence people in many different ways. Depending on how an article is written, a newspaper can make people lean one way or another by painting differing images in the mind of the reader. If a newspaper wants you to support one thing it will use certain words and phrases that 'talk up' or put into a good light, the things that they want you to support. If they want the public to reject something, then they use the same psychology, but in reverse.

For the first time ever, The Evening Gazette has painted, by using this "concreted over" phrase, a realistic image of the Coatham development in the mind of the reader. There is going to be no major leisure development. The only leisure that will be provided will be provided by the council borrowing millions of pounds that we will have to pay back through our council tax, not through Persimmons' houses being built. The Persimmon development will be just a housing development that will cover everything in concrete.

This is all this scheme has ever been about, the council have known this all along and they have lied to the public of the area.

But what the article then goes onto say, says so much. The councils barrister is a man called George Lawrence QC. This man is probably the leading authority on open spaces in this country. I have faced him and all of his knowledge and experience in a magistrates court in Middlesbrough, where the council who had already paid him £12,500 for a twenty five minute appearance in the same court the month previous, paid him heaven only knows how many tens of thousands of pounds of public money for a two day hearing when I faced him over the issue of stopping up the old public footpaths which had criss crossed the common for about a hundred years. This is a hearing that could have easily been dealt with by the councils own solicitor.

Mr Lawrence whilst being an expert on this subject, is for me, also a bit of a legal prostitute. For there he has been, on past occasions, backing the council in their attempts to stop the land being registered as a common or village green and there he was once again in the High Court last Tuesday doing the same, but not so long ago the same Mr George Lawrence QC, was writing the forward for the Open Spaces Society handbook which basically tells people how to try and register open land as commons or village greens. This man clearly goes to the highest bidder. He isn't bothered about right or wrong, just who is paying the most.

I thought his argument to the judges last Tuesday though, showed a 'clutching at straws' mentality. When one of the leading experts on open spaces' only arguments to the appeal court, is that the judges had to consider the implications of them ruling in our favour because it would open the floodgates to other applications for land being registered as a village green, then I think that shows that there is no real depth of belief in the councils deferment argument at all.

As the opposing barrister pointed out to the appeal court judges though, they are not there to rule on the implications of something, they are there to rule on the law. On this occasion, it would seem that the law is not defined and there is a strong possibility that whatever the outcome of this appeal hearing, then one side or the other, will take this case all the way to the House of Lords for the Law to be defined.

Lets remind ourselves of George Dunnings press release from March this year.

Despite the council informing the solicitors opposing them over the issue of the village green, on the 26th of March, that it was the councils intention to actually go to Judicial Review over this issue, despite this council making that decision to go to Judicial Review over the village green issue approximately two weeks before that, despite George Dunning being told by the legal officer what was going to happen, George Dunning and Mark Hannon somehow failed to mention this in their press release? They preferred instead, to tell only half a story, only half a truth, in order to dupe the public of the area.

As the Coatham village green case, a case that they both made out in their release was over when they knew that it wasn't, goes from the High Court, to the High Court of Appeal and possibly all the way to the House of Lords, how Dunning and Hannon must rue the day that they ever tried to deliberately mislead the people of this area in order to try and make everybody think that everything, once again was all hunky dory with Coatham.

To quote Pinocchio Dunnings own press release from last year, the press release where he referred to the Coatham planning process as tainted, " I think that this action may come back to haunt certain individuals within the council".

They have no-one to blame but themselves.

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