Whitewebbs supporters raise £13,000 to fund legal case against council

Friends of Whitewebbs Park chair says he “won’t be intimidated” by Enfield Council bid to force him to pay its full legal costs if judicial review is defeated, reports James Cracknell

Residents are campaigning to 'save Whitewebbs' from being leased to Tottenham Hotspur
Residents are campaigning to ‘save Whitewebbs’ from being leased to Tottenham Hotspur

The pensioner preparing to take on Enfield Council in court over its decision to lease Whitewebbs Park to Tottenham Hotspur has hailed the “tremendous response” from local people after £13,000 was raised to fund his legal challenge.

Sean Wilkinson is bringing a judicial review case against the council’s decision and is currently preparing the arguments for the case that will be heard at the High Court between 6th-8th February.

However, before then, a cost-capping hearing will take place on 30th January which will determine whether Sean will also become liable for the council’s full legal costs should he lose the case.

It means that while the impressive £13,000 raised so far through an online crowdfunder has met Sean’s initial target for fighting his case, he could face further costs of between £20,000 and £40,000.

Sean told the Dispatch this week that he was “really pleased with the tremendous response” to the crowdfunder and that he was “really grateful to all the Whitewebbs supporters” who had contributed.

However, on the cost-capping issue, Sean said: “When we sought permission for the judicial review, the judge agreed there was a case and also awarded cost protection which limits the costs [that can be claimed by the winning party] to £5,000.

“But the council and Spurs [as an interested party] have appealed the decision to provide cost-capping. I understand we have a reasonable chance of defeating that but you can never be certain.

“I think it is a form of intimidation – that’s what it is. I think it is a way of trying to stop me going ahead with the case.”

However, Sean adds: “I am not going to be bullied into standing down on this. We have to stand up for what we believe in.”

The council has said in response that as a “publicly funded body” it is “right and proper” that it seeks to cover its costs in the case.

It was last November that Sean, who is chair of the Friends of Whitewebbs Park group, was granted permission for a judicial review of the council’s decision to award a 25-year lease to Tottenham Hotspur, which wants to set up a new women’s football academy on the site of the park’s former golf course in northern Enfield.

The council agreed in October 2021 to hand the lease for more than half the park to Spurs if its proposals for the parkland win planning permission. It sparked a backlash from local residents, with multiple protests being staged.

The Premier League football club wants to create new training pitches in the north-eastern corner of the park – amounting to 18% of the total area – close to its existing training complex in Whitewebbs Lane. But the lease also includes land to the south of this, where Tottenham Hotspur plans to restore “areas of historic parkland”.

A council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council is confident that proper legal processes and procedures have been followed at all times leading up to the award of the lease at Whitewebbs and expects to be successful in defending the claim. In these circumstances, as a publicly funded body, it is right and proper that the council takes all reasonable steps to enable it to recover its legal costs.”

Tottenham Hotspur FC, which revealed its first detailed plans for the park last autumn, has declined to comment on the judicial review case.

Before Christmas, in a survey of park users, the Friends of Whitewebbs Park says that of 750 people who responded, 97.8% agreed with the statement that “Whitewebbs should run as a country park with open access to all parts”.

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