Judicial Review of Nature Reserve designation succeeds

01 Mar 2011

In R (Western Power Distribution Investments Ltd) v Cardiff County Council, the Administrative Court quashed a decision of the Council to designate land it owned as a nature reserve under section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The Claimant was engaged in a long running planning battle with the Council over its plans to develop the neighbouring land.

The Council had acquired the designated land as “public walks or pleasure grounds” under section 164 of the Public Health Act 1875, with the result that it was held under a statutory trust for the benefit of the public for the purposes of recreation. Western Power successfully argued that the designation of the land as a nature reserve was unlawful because the 1949 Act required that nature reserves be managed for conservation purposes, and that any recreational purposes for which the land was also managed should not compromise the conservation purposes. Since management of the land for conservation purposes would conflict with the recreational purposes for which the land was held in trust, the Council ought first to have sought formally to appropriate the land for use as a nature reserve – which would have required it to advertise its intentions and to allow an opportunity for the public (including the Claimant) to object.

Robert Palmer represented Western Power, led by John Steel QC.

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