Following the Supreme Court decision in Day v Shropshire [**see summary below], AELTG hold the golf course on trust for the people of Wimbledon and this application to develop it must be rejected.
1.1 The Supreme Court has confirmed that, because of a local authority’s failure to comply with the law in a sale of public trust land, the trust continued so that the buyer owns it as trustee for the public. This result was a material consideration in the determination of a planning application for that land, so serious as to quash a planning permission.
1.2 The parallels between Day v Shropshire and Wimbledon Park are remarkable and clear. We have therefore researched (and asked LBM about) the legal history of LBM’s acquisition and ownership from 1965, and the circumstances of the 1993 sale to AELTG.
1.3 LBM acquired the Wimbledon Park Estate (which included the golf course) from the Wimbledon Corporation in 1965. The whole Estate was then to be held by LBM as “public walks or pleasure grounds” on the statutory trust under s164 Public Health Act 1875, for the people of Wimbledon. Part of it could also continue to be used as a municipal golf course.
1.4 From our research, and enquiries of LBM, there is no evidence that due statutory process was followed by LBM in the sale to AELTG in 1993. According to the decision in Day v Shropshire the statutory trust, and the rights of the public protected by it, therefore continue. The golf course remains subject to that trust in the hands of AELTG for the benefit of the people of Wimbledon. It can be used only as public walks or pleasure grounds or a municipal golf course.
1.5 The proposals in this planning application are incompatible with the statutory trust, the rights of the public and the authorised use, and, following Day v Shropshire, the planning decision-maker must reject this application.
1.6 We respectfully suggest that, before any decision is taken regarding this land, there should be a full investigation of the legal history and status of the Estate and its management by LBM and of LBM’s exercise of their powers and duties over it, including the events of 1993, and perhaps earlier years.
** A Short Summary of Day vs Shropshire from the Wimbledon Park Residents' Association Spring 23 Newsletter:
Day v Shropshire (https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2021-0031.html)
This important unanimous recent decision of the Supreme Court bears a close
resemblance to the circumstances of Wimbledon Park and the process by
which LBM sold part of it to AELTG in 1993.
A local authority held land in Shrewsbury as open space under a statutory trust. They had failed to research or investigate their ownership and the trust, and failed to comply with the relevant legal provisions when they sold it. The Supreme Court held that, due to these failures, the land was not released from the statutory trust. The purchaser therefore took over the open space on trust for the public.
The planning permission which the purchaser obtained was quashed because those failures, and the trust, were material considerations which had not been taken into account in the planning decision.
A few quotes from the decision illustrate why the Court considered this issue to be so important:
Paragraph 1: For many years Parliament has recognised the importance for local communities of having green spaces where people can take exercise, play sport and meet each other in the outdoors. Certainly, the events of recent years blighted by the Covid-19 pandemic with compulsory lock downs and social distancing have confirmed that recreation areas have a vital role to play in the physical and mental well-being of people living in an urban environment. The National Planning Policy Framework published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in July 2021 states at para 98: “Access to a network of high quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and physical activity is important for the health and well-being of communities and can deliver wider benefits for nature and support efforts to address climate change ….”
Paragraph 118: If, as a result of this appeal, other local authorities decide to follow that advice and take stock of how they acquired and now hold the pleasure grounds, public walks and open spaces that they make available to the public to enjoy then that, in my judgment, would be all to the good. The judgment refers to an important report on the whole saga by Michael Redfern KC, available on-line at: