Whitewebbs legal team make appeal request as they vow to ‘continue fight’ against Spurs lease

Public Interest Law Centre says verdict dismissing appeal against Enfield Council’s lease of park to Tottenham Hotspur is “terribly sad”, reports James Cracknell

The Public Interest Law Centre legal team with Sean Wilkinson (fifth from left) and supporters outside the High Court
The Public Interest Law Centre legal team with Sean Wilkinson (fifth from left) and supporters outside the High Court

The legal team behind the Whitewebbs case against Enfield Council has asked for permission to appeal the judgment which last week rejected its claims that the 25-year lease of the park to Tottenham Hotspur was unlawful.

The Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) represented Friends of Whitewebbs Park chair Sean Wilkinson in the judicial review case at the High Court in February and has now issued a statement in response to the verdict saying that it plans to “continue to fight” the plans to fence off part of the park and construct a women’s football academy on it.

Harriet Child, a PILC solicitor, said: “Public trust land was one of the great and radical advances to come out of the public backlash against development encroaching on people’s ability to access open space.

“It’s terribly sad that we’ve lost sight of that as a society. This judgment shows a willingness to sell land to private companies that people fought so hard to protect for the public nearly 100 years ago.

“We have earlier generations to thank for their existence and we need to safeguard them for the future. This has always been a fight led by grassroots campaigners and we cannot – and will not – give up now.”

PILC has also pointed out that despite the judge rejecting all four grounds for appeal against the council – including the claim that it had “no power to dispose of a lease […] “in such a manner that members of the public are unable to obtain access to some part of the park” – the verdict acknowledges that selling off this land will mean a “significant” decrease in public access.

In his verdict issued on Friday (17th), Mr Justice Mould wrote: “In my view, it is clear that football academy and training facilities […] are not facilities which, to any significant degree, will be accessible to the public for recreation.

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“The football training facility will be primarily focused on the development of emerging and elite professional footballers in a highly managed programme operated by a long established and successful Premier League football club.

“The opportunity for members of the public to access that facility for recreation are likely to be very limited and subsidiary to that principal purpose.”

The London branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has also supported Sean’s case against the council and this week reacted to the verdict.
Alice Roberts, head of campaigns at CPRE London, said: “We are naturally very concerned about the implications of this judgement for London’s public parks and we very much hope the courts will allow an appeal.

“Whatever happens, we will support Enfield campaigners to continue the fight to save the park for public use.

“But at the same time we are enormously disappointed that a wealthy football club like Tottenham Hotspur feels it appropriate to take over a public park when they can well afford to purchase land elsewhere.

“We strongly support provision for women’s football but this is a wealthy professional football club which has plenty of resources to buy land which is not public park land.

“We call on Spurs to do the right thing and withdraw their planning application immediately.”

CPRE also point to a previous example where Queen’s Park Rangers in West London eventually decided against building a training ground on public playing fields, with the area now set to become a nature reserve.

Alice added: “This is what needs to happen in Whitewebbs Park which is already an extraordinarily important habitat which will be destroyed should Spurs continue to pursue its plans.

“The London mayor has set stretching targets to create new habitat in London as part of a national emergency plan to secure nature’s recovery in the face of devastating species decline. The loss of Whitewebbs will make reaching these targets even harder.

“A high profile club like Spurs needs to take it’s social and environmental responsibility a great deal more seriously.”

Sean said: “The support for Whitewebbs Park among the community has been magnificent and it continues. I want to assure everyone that the fight goes on to protect our beautiful park.”

An Enfield Council spokesperson said last week that the Whitewebbs Park lease is “set to bring significant benefits to the local community including the protection and enhancement of the park and woods, further investment in a new on-site café, toilets and other facilities as well as preserving open public access to over 80% of the park for all residents”.

Tottenham Hotspur have been approached for comment but have not responded.

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