Press Release issued by WAG:
QC’s opinion resulted in changes
to draft Local Plan documents
says Wisley Action Group
Guildford Council’s refusal to reimburse legal charges incurred in highlighting fundamental errors in the draft Local Plan has been challenged by campaigners opposing a ‘new town’ on green belt at Wisley.
The Wisley Action Group [WAG] originally invoiced the Council on June 23rd in respect of written legal opinion received from leading counsel Peter Village QC earlier the same month. His view was that proposals for a settlement at ‘Three Farms Meadows’, the former Wisley airfield, were unsound because they embraced parcels of land which were neither owned by nor available to either the would-be developers or the Council.
But a letter to WAG from Satish Mistry, Executive Head of Governance at Guildford Borough Council, issued a month later [July 22nd], claimed that the Council “has no liability whatsoever to pay the invoice” and so “cannot and will not” reimburse the charge.
WAG has challenged the rejection in a subsequent letter to Mr Mistry of July 30th which claims it is a matter of public record that the Council’s draft Local Plan presented a proposal for a ‘new town’ at Wisley which included land which was not and is not ‘available’.
‘Yet this fundamental inaccuracy was to be included in the draft Local Plan to be presented at the June 19th Council meeting,’ says the WAG letter, which confirms; ‘As a result of the written legal opinion from leading counsel Peter Village QC, supported by earlier written evidence from Bell Cornwell, the Council’s papers presented at the Council meeting were amended to reflect that professional opinion and remedy the Council’s previous error.’
The letter concludes; ‘It is self-evident, therefore, that if WAG had not called for and presented legal opinion in the matter, the Council would have instructed councillors to vote on a flawed and unsound proposal. In these circumstances we believe that our invoice submitted is wholly valid and look forward to the favour of your early remittance to avoid further expense.’
The Council has not, so far, responded to WAG’s letter.
Helen Jefferies, a member of the WAG campaign committee, said today that the Council appeared to be ignoring the facts.
“It is quite clear that last-minute amendments to the draft Local Plan documents presented at the June 19th Council meeting were made as a direct result of legal opinion received from our barrister which we’d made available to Guildford Borough Council in advance of that meeting,” said Mrs Jefferies.
“The Council’s rejection of our invoice appears to be based on the premise that, having received its own legal advice, it had no obligation to reimburse local groups for an alternative legal opinion – even when the Council subsequently acted upon that alternative advice to remedy its previous errors. In the circumstances we feel wholly justified in looking to the Council for reimbursement of the costs we have already incurred.”
Issued on behalf of The Wisley Action Group August 7th 2014