Wellingborough tree campaign continues away from High Court as felling deadline approaches
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A top High Court judge who has been dealing with the legal battle to save an avenue of historic lime trees has issued an adjournment to pause proceedings.
Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the ‘lawfulness’ of a decision or action made by a public body.
Wellingborough Walks Action Group Ltd (WWAG Ltd), the company founded to challenge the felling of the much-loved trees, has been assured of the trees reprieve.
Extending the previous deadline of July 31 – the end of the bird nesting season – the new date should see the trees untouched until at least August 31.
Marion Turner-Hawes, chairperson of WWAG Ltd said: “There has been an adjournment until the end of August. The developer (Stanton Cross LLP) has agreed to keep to that deadline and discussions are going on.”
WWAG, North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) and Stanton Cross Developments have been taking part in ‘technical discussions’ to see if a solution can be found to save some or all of the remaining trees.
The lime avenue was put in peril after plans were revealed showing the destruction of the stretch of trees from the Dog and Duck to the River Nene, along London Road.
WWAG has instructed a barrister to act on their behalf to protect the avenue – a costly process paid for by donations and fundraising events.
The Honourable Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the ‘determination of the application for permission to apply for judicial review’ would be adjourned to a date from September 1.
Giving her reasons she said: “Despite the reservations expressed by the Interested Party (Stanton Cross Developments LLP), I am satisfied that the ongoing mediation process should be allowed to run its course, and to enable revised plans to be drawn up.
“Presumably the Claimant (WWAG) and the Defendant (North Northamptonshire Council) do not expect the tree felling to commence until the application for permission is determined, but it is not clear to me whether there is anything in place to prevent the Interested Party (Stanton Cross Developments LLP) from commencing tree felling once the bird nesting season ends, at the end of July.”
Mrs Justice Lang also noted a grey area requiring clarification adding Stanton Cross Developments LLP had ‘committed to not undertaking any tree clearance work until the technical review has been concluded’.
Adding: “I do not know whether this refers to the mediation process, or some other technical review,’ and asked for clarification ‘to avoid an emergency out-of-hours application to the Court to stop unexpected tree felling, as has happened in some other areas.”
Ms Turner-Hawes said: “There are hundreds of trees that are in danger of being felled. We want the whole of the Embankment area to continue as a place that can be enjoyed by future generations otherwise they will be sitting in a cacophony of noise and fumes. Without the trees it’s going to be terrible.
"The adjournment takes us to September 1, 2023 by which time she (Mrs Justice Lang), and we, are hoping parties may have agreed something.
“As you will see Justice Lang, is also concerned about the so-called end of bird nesting season at the end of July, and she has asked for clarification from the parties to confirm what Stanton Cross Developments mean when they say they will not fell until their ‘technical review’ has concluded.
"The judge has made it plain that she wants to avoid an out-of-hours emergency injunction, as happened in Plymouth. WWAG, of course agrees. We have written to the other parties proposing a course of action for the next few weeks to help us progress and to ensure the protected trees are safeguarded throughout this period, at least.”
Meanwhile Walks Action Group Ltd is carrying on fundraising to pay for legal advice.
Ms Turner-Hawes said: “We have raised nearly £40,000 which is phenomenal. The community is really pulling together. We want to thank everybody for that but we are spending that money on our legal costs.
"With the courts now on holiday realistically we might not get our case seen until October or November. It’s in everyone’s interests to not touch a single tree.”
Stanton Cross Developments and North Northamptonshire Council have been contacted for a comment.