Minutes of Special General Meeting Meeting held on 2 February 2015
Tadworth and Walton Residents' Association
Lord Riddell Hall, Walton on the Hill
(Click here to view, download & print as a pdf file.)

Clive Elcome welcomed Resident Association members to the meeting adding the large turnout reflected the interest and importance of this Special General Meeting. He opened the meeting by introducing Gillian Hein, Deputy Chairman, Robin Parr-Davies, Treasurer and Dr. Ashley Bowes, Barrister, who had represented the Association at the Public Inquiry concerning the de-registration of Beecham’s Field. Clive explained that there were two topics to be covered at this meeting.

Beecham's Field, Walton Heath:
An update of the Judicial Review process following the Public Inquiry

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s plan for future local area development:
The Council is proposing to consult on local views on the Development Management Plan.

1. Beecham's Field, Walton Heath:
Before asking Dr. Bowes to explain legal matters, Clive outlined the history leading to the present situation. In 2013 the covenant which protected the rights to Common Land (Beecham’s Field) was broken when Reigate and Banstead Borough Council agreed to Walton Heath Golf Club’s application for a Deed of Variation to the 1993 Agreement. Subsequently the Golf Club submitted an application to de-register this land and following opposition a Public Inquiry was held last May after which the Inspector found in favour of the Golf Club. Having read the Inspector’s report, the Committee sought legal advice and was advised that there were three grounds on which to request a Judicial Review. Justice Lang who read the Committee’s submissions agreed the grounds for the review were warranted and a High Court hearing has been set for 3rd and 4th March, 2015. If this is ratified there could be another Public Inquiry.
Two issues arising from this are the costs involved and our chances of success.

Robin Parr-Davies, Treasurer:
The costs incurred to date were outlined by Robin. £4,400 has been spent, £3,700 with our legal team (Solicitor/Barrister) and £700 which has been paid to the Treasury Solicitor in advance of the Judicial Review. He explained that at the review the Treasury Solicitor is the Defendant and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and Walton Heath Golf Club are considered to be “interested parties”. The Treasury Solicitor has claimed costs of £700 to date whilst the Golf Club has submitted costs of £3,170 in preparation of the review. Reigate and Banstead Council has not submitted any costs and is not wishing to be involved in the hearing.

Robin explained that should we be successful the Association could recover all costs up to a limit of £35,000. However, if we were to withdraw now we would be liable to pay the other sides costs in full, which together with our own costs to date, would total around £14,000.

In the event of losing our total costs in relation to the Judicial Review are likely to be in the region of £12,300, some of which has already been paid in 2104 and he confirmed that we have sufficient reserves to cover the remainder this year.

Dr. Ashley Bowes, Barrister:
Dr. Bowes explained the three grounds for requesting a Judicial Review.
When reaching his decision the Inspector, Mr. Barney Grimshaw had to consider certain criteria including the interest of the public, neighbourhood and land access, archaeological concerns as set out in law.

1) Dr. Bowes said the main issue was the Unilateral Undertaking. This is an agreement which the Golf Club put forward during the Inquiry which requires the Club, inter alia, not to implement its planning permission for the golf practice facility before it has submitted ecological management plans for both Beecham’s Field and the replacement land. He contends that the Inspector misunderstood this Undertaking, concluding that it was a stand alone obligation, even though it relates only to the existing planning permission. Nature conservation was an important consideration at the Inquiry and the Inspector has an obligation to take this into account. At present Beecham’s Field is no longer Common Land and the Club is under no obligation to implement any management plans.

2) The Inspector failed to consider the evidence presented at the Inquiry by the Association’s ecologist, Ann Sankay that the exchange could have a negative effect on Beecham’s Field, accepting only evidence from the Golf Club’s ecologist. There was no justification that the exchange would have a positive effect on nature conservation because the unilateral agreement only required the submission of plans prior to the implementation of a particular planning permission. Another application could be submitted.

3) Although the Inspector gave most weight of the impact of the exchange on Tadworth and Walton conceding that the exchange land is less accessible for residents, he concluded that this was outweighed by the beneficial impact on Reigate and Buckland. The conclusion is irrational and inconsistent.

He explained the legal procedures involved with a Judicial Review, saying that permission has to be granted by a High Court Judge and in this case papers were submitted in November at which time the judge agreed that the arguments presented merited a full hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

He stated that the Association had more than an even chance of success and predicted a 65% likelihood rate of success.

Questions:
Martin Stringfellow asked what the implications would be if the Association was successful and Dr. Bowes responded saying there could be a new Public Inquiry, the Golf Club might decide not to proceed or they might submit an amended application.

Tom Weston asked what the cost of a second Inquiry would be and if the Association had sufficient funds. Robin Parr-Davies replied the costs would be similar to the first Inquiry and that the Association had sufficient funds.

Mr Cruikshank queried whether the Committee had a mandate to commit the Association to a Judicial Review and why the membership had not been consult en masse. Clive responded saying the Committee, that had been elected at the Annual General Meeting, takes responsibility for its actions. He explained that the time in which to lodge papers for the Judicial Review were too tight and therefore each and every member of the Association could not have reasonably been consulted. He added that the meeting being held on the 2nd February would also indicate whether the members supported the Committee’s action. He added that he had received only 6-8 e-mails from Members objecting to this course of action.

Graham Young asked if there was scope for a compromise and Dr. Bowes replied that it was always sensible to try and negotiate and that there was good co-operation between the various solicitors involved, however, in the case of the Judicial review it would either be accepted or set aside.

Clive hoped that after the matter has been resolved that there would be a better relationship with the Golf Club.

Mike Morley asked would be possible to get a view from the members attending the meeting.

It was suggested by Philip Truett that all applications made by the Golf Club had been opposed but Councillor Rachel Turner responded saying during the15 years that she had been a councillor all its planning applications had been passed by the Council.

Gillian Hein responded to him saying that relations between the Golf Club and the Association had not been good since the 1980s but that the Association had not objected to the Golf Club’s application for its reservoir. She added that the Association supports the Golf Club on its nature conservation work. She then informed the meeting that the Association only found out about the Variation to the Deed after it had been signed. This had been carried out under delegated powers and had not been recorded in any Minutes of the Council. The Association had written a letter of complaint to the Council and subsequently complained to the Local Government Ombudsman about the Council’s action, although without success.

The Federation has now requested a meeting with John Jory, Chief Executive of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council but this will not take place until after the Judicial Review. It was felt necessary to have a meeting in order that a similar situation should not arise in the future.

Dr Bowes was asked if any other legal opinion had been sought as it was noted that the solicitors had changed. He replied that the solicitors had changed and were involved in the initial process. The acceptance by a High Court Judge that a review is justified should be seen as positive.

When asked if the general public would have access to Beecham’s Field it was explained that they have no right to the field as of 14th July, 2014.

Mike Morley asked if the general public could use the practice area and was informed that they could not without the agreement of the Club.

Cliff Weight asked again about a compromise. Clive replied the land was for recreational use and it was for residents to choose if they wish to use it. Responding to Mr. Weight’s query about compromise, Gillian Hein explained that the Golf Club could have applied for a change using the Section 38 procedure which would not have involved de-registration of the land but had chosen not to do so.

At the close of this part of the meeting there was an overwhelming show of hands supporting the action taken by the Committee.

2. The Council’s Development Management Plan:
Gillian Hein explained that the Council’s ‘Core Strategy’, which provided a planning framework for the Borough, had been adopted in July 2014, and the Council was now working on a ‘Development Management Plan’.

This document will contain more detailed planning policies than the Core Strategy. It will also identify specific sites for development, including travellers’ sites, and review boundaries for the Green Belt and other designations such as shopping centres and Residential Areas of Special Character.

The Association has already provided some input but the Council is now contacting community and interest groups again.

This time we are being asked to:
a) Identify the main planning issues in our area
b) Comment on whether the existing policies in the 2005 Local Plan need revising
c) Identify any boundary designations which need updating
d) Identify any potential development sites in our area

The deadline for comments is 6th March, 2015. The Council will then produce a draft document for consultation followed by publication of a final plan, a public examination with a view to adoption in 2017. The Association hopes to hold a public meeting in the Autumn when the draft document will be available. This meeting will be attended by Council Officers who will explain their proposals.

Gillian emphasised that the Association feels it is important to make suggestions at this stage as it will be more likely to get our views included now than if put forward along the process. Members were therefore encouraged either to give their comments, particularly on the main planning concerns in our area, to the Association or visit the Council’s web site (planning policy/Development Management Plan), where more information is available, and respond directly.

A request was made by the meeting for the information to be put on the web site and this was agreed.

Meeting attended by approximately 150 residents