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District 'disappointed' as legal challenge to unitary proposals fails

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A legal challenge to local government reorganisation in Dorset has faltered.

Christchurch BC claimed that former housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid acted unlawfully when he passed legislation to allow plans to turn Dorset’s nine councils into two new unitary councils.

A judicial review was heard in the High Court on 30 July. The council received the verdict this morning.

Christchurch leader David Flagg (Con) said: “We are disappointed by today’s judgement. We have been advised that a number of points set out in the judgement are still arguable in law and therefore we will be responding to the judge on these.

“Depending on his response we will consider whether an appeal to the Court of Appeal would be appropriate or not.”

Christchurch, which had previously submitted an alternative proposal for three unitary councils, launched a bid for a judicial review in May. At the time a government lawyer on behalf of new homes and communities secretary James Brokenshire described the challenge as “unacceptable” and “an absurd intention to impute Parliament”. This came after advice from Nathalie Lieven QC, of Blackstone Chambers, warned Christchurch in March that there was “absolutely no arguable error of law, and thus any arguable cause of action” against the secretary of state’s decision.

A statement issued on behalf of Bournemouth and Weymouth & Portland BCs, Dorset CC, Borough of Poole, and East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, and West Dorset DCs said: “We are delighted but unsurprised by today’s judgement.

“A huge amount of work has already been undertaken, and we are making excellent progress towards creating the two new councils.”

They said they respected Christchurch’s legal challenge but added “the validity of the case for creating two new councils was not the basis for this judicial review challenge”.

“Christchurch BC has spent a very significant amount of council tax payers’ money in pursuing this legal action,” the statement said. “The High Court has rejected that challenge and we hope that all Christchurch borough councillors will now accept that judgement, and fully take part in planning for and making decisions about the new council.

“We are optimistic this matter is now behind us, and we can look forward to working together to create the best new local councils we can, to protect public services as much as possible, and to secure future growth and prosperity for our areas.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • What an absurd waste of money

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