PLEASE HELP PROTECT STOKE LODGE VILLAGE GREEN
In June 2023, BCC’s Public Rights of Way and Greens Committee, with advice from leading Counsel, voted 6:1 to register Stoke Lodge Playing Fields as a Village Green. This means that our community, who have enjoyed using this land for over 70 years, have open access to this beautiful parkland forever. Village Green status also protects all 23 acres from development, such as housing or anything that isn’t for the better enjoyment of the green, in perpetuity.
Bristol City Council who decided to register Stoke Lodge as a Village Green and owns the land is trying to sue itself for the decision it made ! Please help us to fight this unlawful and undemocratic decision.
Cotham School has a lease to use the land as extra space for physical education, subject to our community’s use. Despite many requests from our community, MP and councilors, Cotham School still refuses to talk about sharing Stoke Lodge and has instead decided to take legal action to try to strip away our village green status.
Cotham School and sports clubs can still use the village green. Many schools in Bristol and across the UK use open access public land for PE, and that’s what Cotham signed up for in their lease but they now want to lock our community out, install hardstanding, floodlights and more, and they can't do that on a village green so they have taken us and the council to court to try to get the decision reversed
Bristol City Council (as 3rd defendant) has indicated to the courts it wants to 'switch sides' and sue itself over a decision that is fully delegated under BCC’s constitution to the PROWG Committee. An unknown officer within BCC has applied to the courts to have BCC’s status changed from defendant to claimant. By law, this decision is not a matter for the Council's executive and should not be a matter for political interference.
Bristol City Council continues to shock us with its unlawful and undemocratic antics. There has never been a level playing field when it comes to Stoke Lodge, but this latest twist is particularly shocking. How can our council want to jump the fence and go to court against itself and the residents of Bristol? This decision is unprecedented, unlawful, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic.
We believe that BCC wants to switch sides because they (like us) think that the school’s application to litigate without being at risk on costs will fail - so it appears that our council is looking to help Cotham out by piggybacking their case and stepping into the school’s shoes. Cotham School is an academy, wholly independent of the council - but still BCC is proposing to spend huge sums of our council tax on suing itself and fighting against its own residents.
We believe that such a step would be unlawful under the Council's constitution and would have the effect of needlessly assuming very significant financial costs on behalf of the school, which would of course fall on local taxpayers. It would also cause unnecessary reputational damage to the Council and would set a very bad precedent in relation to future planning decisions and other fully delegated processes.
So, what happens next? On the 24th of January a Judge in a Bristol Court will hold a hearing to decide whether BCC can sue itself - that is, whether they can be both a claimant and a defendant. This hearing will cost the council and the other parties significant sums. They will also decide at this hearing whether Cotham School will be awarded costs protection, without which Cotham says it will not be able to continue with this misconceived litigation.
We Love Stoke Lodge and local sports clubs look forward to this matter being settled once and for all so that we can move forwards together and make this rare and important open space an amazing, shared asset for the city with great facilities for schools, sports clubs and the community.
We need your help with funds to cover legal fees, please give what you can but please dig deep because litigation is expensive. Importantly, if we win (as we expect to) then we should get most of our costs back and can return them to donors pro rata. Every single penny we receive will go towards our legal fees in defending open access to this wonderful and historic parkland for generations to come.
If you would prefer to make a donation by cheque or BACs - just email [email redacted] 100% of donations received by us will go directly to the Barrister for legal fees