Bristol City Council has dropped its legal challenge to the Ashton Vale village green battle - but not its support for a new Bristol City stadium.
With legal fees rising into the tens of thousands and the process dragging on, the authority has decided to pull out of the judicial review process which would have seen it face its opponents in court.
Instead, an independent inspector is now due to decide on the stadium bid at a planning inquiry, probably in late summer.
Opponents to the stadium are seizing on the move as a step forward in their bid to have the entire site on the edge of Bristol declared a town and village green.
But having already approved the 30,000-seater venue, the council is sticking to its guns.
– Cllr Peter Abraham, Bristol City Council, Tory Leader
The taxpayer of Bristol should not go on spending in this way so telling the judge 'we tried to compromise but the objectors will not', let's allow an independent inspector make the decision of what we should do.
Cllr Abraham was chairman of the cross-party Public Rights of Way Committee which last year approved a decision to effectively split the 42-acre site in two with the south half given over to a town green and the north side the stadium.
Opponents have consistently challenged that arrangement.
The only aspect all can agree on is that this saga needs to be sorted as soon as possible. By dropping the legal challenge the council will be hoping that will now happen.
Bristol City Council told our reporter, Richard Payne, their decision was to speed up the debate.
Bristol City Council tell me their decision not to contest legal challenge on Ashton Vale is aimed at deciding stadium row more quickly.
Bristol City Council issued the below statement:
– Bristol City Council Statement
Bristol City Council has today announced its intention to settle the current legal action in relation to Ashton Vale. The Council has been defending the decision last summer of its cross-party Public Rights of Way Committee against a Judicial Review lodged with the High Court, by an anonymous local person known as SDR and subsequently another anonymous person known as ABC.
The committee decision being challenged was to refuse to register (approximately) half of the 42 acre site to the North, the committee having resolved to only register the southern half.
Put briefly, the applicant has been seeking to have the High Court instruct the City Council to consider afresh the non-registration of the Northern part of the site as a Town or Village Green, by referring back evidence relating to this matter to an independent expert inspector to consider, and make recommendations accordingly to the council committeewhich will then decide the matter afresh.
Finally, the applicant’s case also presses the council to immediately register the narrow strip at the North-East side of the site as Town or Village Green land, without any further reference to the independent inspector, or to the council committee.
The Council’s decision today is to cease to contest the legal challenge, and therefore accept these outcomes should happen forthwith.
The Council has made this decision so as to avoid further delays and to avoid mounting legal fees.
– Councillor Peter Abraham, Bristol City Council
I have been saddened and frustrated that the decision of my cross-party committee of elected councillors has been challenged in a seemingly never-ending series of legal challenges.
This is all the more disappointing as our decision preserved indefinitely 20 acres of land for local people to use as recreational open space, whilst leaving theother half of the land free for development.
Although a High Court Judge in an earlier hearing urged compromise, it is very disappointing that those concerned have preferred instead to run up ever-growing lawyers’ bills - many of which will ultimately be carried by the tax-payer. I support this pragmatic decision today so as to begin to draw a line under this matter.