Hiring a Council Park

June 23rd, 2016 by James Goudie KC

R (Friends of Finsbury Park) v Haringey LBC [2016] EWHC 1454 (Admin) was an unsuccessful application for judicial review to quash a decision of Haringey Council to hire Finsbury Park, which the Council owns, for a licensed music festival. Supperstone J observed (para 7) that the Park has played host to large scale events, including commercial concerts, attended by tens of thousands of people, for many years.

Supperstone J referred (paras 9-13) to the Council’s Events Policy, (paras 14-21) to the festival promoter’s Premises Licence, (paras 22-35) to the Council’s review following complaints about the event the previous year and consultation about the 2016 event.

There were four grounds of challenge. The most fundamental was to the Council’s vires. The statutory provisions upon which the Council relied included Section 145 (provision of entertainments) of the Local Government Act 1972. Supperstone J concluded (para 45) that Section 145, of itself and standing alone, provided the Council with the necessary power to permit the festival to take place in the Park.  The power included (para 47) closing the Park to members of the public, save for those who pay for admission, and closing the Park to the extent and for the time necessary to set up and take down the event infrastructure, and to hold the event safely for the benefit of those members of the public who wish to buy tickets to attend it.  Further (para 49) Section 145 does not state that its exercise is subject to any other enactment, or that it is to be read or qualified by any such enactment.  Section 44 of the Public Health Amendment Act 1890 is an additional power that the authority may rely upon should it so choose.

Supperstone J, applying well-settled principles, also dismissed a consultation challenge, on the basis of some of the information being allegedly “positively misleading” and the shortness (14 days) of the consultation period. The consultation was (para 60) adequate for its purpose. Moreover, Supperstone J added:

“61.      If, contrary to my view, there should have been more, or a longer period of, consultation, I consider, in the light of the consultation that there was this year and in previous years in relation to essentially the same event, it is highly likely that the outcome for the Claimant would not have been substantially different (Senior Courts Act 1981 s.31(2A)).”

Other challenges that were dismissed included that the Council had failed to deal with the application as a “key decision” and that the Council was in breach of other process requirements. The fact that the income the Council would earn would help the Council meet its Parks Budget did not mean that the decision was a key decision.  The decision was correctly designated as not being a key decision.  Nor was there any failure to record the decision or to make documents available.  Again, Supperstone J added:

“76.      I consider it highly likely that the outcome for the Claimant would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred (s.31(2A) Senior Courts Act 1981). There was nothing in the decision or the report that would, in my view, have led to any further representations by the Claimant that would have made any substantial difference to the outcome.”

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