Court Defeat for Heritage Foundation

LETCHWORTH Garden City Heritage Foundation is facing a hefty legal bill after losing its High Court case against Cllr Philip Ross, chairman of Letchworth Garden City Council, and North Herts District Council. The Foundation had asked the High Court for a

LETCHWORTH Garden City Heritage Foundation is facing a hefty legal bill after losing its High Court case against Cllr Philip Ross, chairman of Letchworth Garden City Council, and North Herts District Council.

The Foundation had asked the High Court for a judicial review of decisions made by Cllr Ross, surrounding his chairing of a parish meeting held in March last year which led to a parish poll asking if the Foundation's governors should be directly and democratically elected.

The Foundation had always maintained it was unlawful because it did not concern a parish affair, and Cllr Ross was wrong to allow the parish meeting and North Herts District Council was wrong to conduct the poll.

Cllr Ross said after the hearing: "This is a triumph for democracy over autocracy. It is a triumph for the people of Letchworth GC and helps renew Ebenezer Howard's dream of our town, that it belong to the people not a landlord.

"This is the second time the Foundation has taken me to court and lost. They really do have an uninspiring track record, having lost �80,000 in costs in the course of it."

The poll's question that brought about the legal action was: "Should Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation be placed under the direct control of elected representatives by replacing the current management structure of governors and directors with a board of 12 people to be elected every four years?"

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The majority of people who voted - 2,503 out of a total of 3,863 - agreed the Foundation should be reformed.

In dismissing the Foundation's application, Mr Justice Irwin said the proposition that it was not a matter to be discussed in a town meeting was 'strange'.

Referring to the Foundation, Mr Justice Irwin said: "If it is a major determinate of how life is led in the town then its governance is of public interest.

"It is inconceivable this is not a parish affair and it was therefore a proper subject for a poll."

Stuart Kenny, director general of the Foundation, said: "We found the judgement helpful in that it was important that clarification be sought as to what constitutes a parish poll.

"Of course we would fight any attempted re-structuring of the Foundation. It is disappointing that this judgement appears to confirm, effectively, that there is no legal constraint on ill-conceived and costly parish poll challenges.

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