Birketts helps secure victory at the Supreme Court in eight-year village green case


12 February 2021

Birketts has helped secure the permanent registration of part of the Mistley quay side as a village green.

Judgment has been given in the Supreme Court in the long running litigation to determine whether the village green registration should be upheld. The decisive dismissal of the landowner’s appeal, by all five judges, ensures that the picturesque area of waterfront remains classified as a village green for the recreational use of local inhabitants.

First prompted by the erection of Heras fencing along the edge of the quay by port owners TW Logistics in 2008, locals challenged the owner for obstructing their right to enjoy the quayside and its beautiful views of the River Stour.

Birketts’ former Senior Partner and public law specialist Nigel Farthing was instrumental in taking forward an application for registration of the quay as a village green in 2010, representing applicant Ian Tucker at an eight day public inquiry. However, as soon as the space was finally registered in 2014, the landowner exercised its right to a High Court review of the registration decision. Ian was then successfully represented by Birketts partner and Solicitor-Advocate Richard Eaton in a seven day trial, with the court upholding the registration decision. The landowner then appeal to the Court of Appeal. When that appeal failed, he further appealed to the Supreme Court. Richard continued to represent Ian, teaming up with Richard Wald QC. for the appellate stages.

TW Logistics’ arguments have been varied but the Supreme Court appeal hinged largely on whether an application for registration could be made where the landowner of the land in question has a continuing use for the land following registration, in this case as a transit route for port traffic. The landowner argued that such use would constitute a breach of the criminal laws aimed to protect the enjoyment of town and village greens, and so registration ought not to apply. The court dismissed the arguments and reassured the landowner that its continued use, as before, would not be criminal, and that sensible give and take between the landowner and residents was required.

Speaking on receipt of the handed down judgment, Nigel Farthing said: “This is a fantastic day for our tenacious and publically spirited client who has safeguarded the rights of inhabitants to enjoy spending time on the quayside at Mistley.”

Partner Richard Eaton added: “If ever there was a time when we need our local public spaces for recreation, it is now. Our congratulations to the well organised and determined Mistley inhabitants and our thanks for having the privilege to represent Ian on their behalf.”

Ian Tucker said: “This truly is a momentous day for myself and the community of Mistley, who can now appreciate the sweeping views of the River Stour visible from the quayside without limitation. It has been a long and complicated process but we are very grateful for the continued support of the Birketts’ team, who have been with us every step of the way, demonstrating excellent knowledge and expertise.”