Market Place statues
Update: 25th February
Petitioning. Photo: Jean Rogers
The Trustees of the City of Durham Trust were deeply disappointed by the recent decision of the Secretary of State to allow the re-positioning of the two listed statues, especially that of the pivotal statue of Lord Londonderry. They considered mounting a challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision via a statutory review in the High Court. Having received legal advice that, despite errors made by the County Council, the chance of success was no more than 50%, and that it would be ruinously expensive, Trustees have reluctantly decided not to proceed with the legal challenge.
The Trust’s Chairman, Dr John Charters, said “We are naturally very disappointed that we have had to decide not to proceed with a legal challenge to the decision to move the statues. We know that our thousands of supporters will share our disappointment, and we would like to thank them for their support in this campaign. We now think it is incumbent on the Council to give them, and us, a full explanation of why they are pressing ahead with this move in the face of overwhelming public opposition.”
Trustees took their decision after a full discussion at their meeting on 16 February. They subsequently issued the following statement, which has been posted to all Trust members along with the latest issue of the Trust’ Bulletin:
SECRETARY OF STATE’S DECISION ON STATUES IN DURHAM MARKET PLACE
The Trustees of the City of Durham Trust were deeply disappointed by the recent decision of the Secretary of State to allow the re-positioning of the two listed statues, especially that of the pivotal statue of Lord Londonderry. They had asked for the application to be either refused or for there to be a local public inquiry. The decision flew in the face of unprecedented opposition from professionally-qualified experts to unanimous objection from civic leaders and City residents. The last-named, of course, included more than 6000 who signed our petition in addition to some 4000 on the Facebook website.
Trustees considered mounting a challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision via a statutory review in the High Court. An initial disappointment was that the Decision Letter had stated that “criticism on the Council’s general approach to the proposal and the consultation process” were not within the Secretary of State’s remit. A case had to be made that there had been an error of law: that the Secretary of State had erred in his decision-making process, notably in relation to Public Planning Guideline 15 (Planning and the Historic Environment), rather than in his overall evaluation of the evidence.
We consulted our solicitors, who engaged an expert barrister to look at the papers. We were advised that “... the prospects of success for the Trust are regrettably no greater than 50%”. However, were we successful, the High Court would not reverse the decision on the two statues, but merely quash it and return it to the Secretary of State to re-determine. The most likely outcome would be that the same decision would be repeated, with application of the law clearly and expressly set out with reference to PPG15. Meanwhile, there was the prospect of prohibitive legal costs. Even a ‘successful’ challenge would have exhausted the Trust’s reserves; an unsuccessful challenge could cost in excess of £40,000.
Trustees therefore decided reluctantly at their meeting on 16th February not to proceed with the legal challenge. They will continue to do all they can to modify the proposed changes to the Market Place so that any further alterations will reflect the concerns of City residents and local people.
Trustees would like to thank all of those who helped in the campaign, all who signed the petition and for the many who wrote letters of support in the local press.
25th February 2010
The history of this campaign, and why the Trust opposed the moving of the statues, is explained here.