On 9th June 2016 Mr Justice Supperstone, granted permission for judicial review of the Council’s decision to allow the Wireless Festival, on all grounds but then dismissed the claim for reasons that he provided in his judgment.
We believe Mr Justice Supperstone’s judgment has alarming consequences, that Section 145 of the 1972 local government act gives local authorities an unrestricted power to close parks to the public. The Council submitted to the Court that it can essentially do what it likes with the Park – it could in theory exclude the public from as much of the park and for as many days as it saw fit.
We have decided to appeal against the decision and we are not alone. The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, founded in 1865 having representatives on national and regional bodies, is taking a very close interest in the case and many other park groups across London and the UK are helping us going forward as this becomes a much wider concern. Indeed in a recent article Conversation UK asks, ‘Is it right to use public parks for commercial events?’ suggesting that ‘a new approach is needed’ and that, ‘Sanctioning commercial events sets a worrying precedent, which could be used to justify more permanent installations in the future.’ Read the full article here.
This is the right case to take to appeal on the power of the local authority to exclude members of public from the park for a large number of days and from a large proportion of the park, contrary to the provisions of the Public Health Amendment Act 1890 [maximum closure of 12 days in a year or 6 consecutive days on any one occasion] or the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967 [maximum open space set aside for persons listening not to exceed one acre or one-tenth of the open space, whichever is the greater.]
The facts are sufficiently extreme to make this a good test case. A large amount of Finsbury Park is to be given over to the Wireless Festival – at least 27% by the Council’s own reckoning – and for a large amount of time including set up. Finsbury Park is an oasis of green in this very urban setting and is rightly valued by local residents who either have little or no outside space in their dwellings. The chaos caused by Wireless Festival last year was widely reported upon and sympathy is generally with the residents – this is the wrong festival in the wrong location. It is unlikely that a case with better facts will emerge.