The Save Leyton Marsh campaign has been stuck with a £20,000 legal bill to pay for the other side's costs after the failure of their judicial review application. They shall be fundraising to try to meet this bill: there will be a comedy night on the 31st July at the Rose and Crown. This must be pretty galling.
The civil legal system did not help them in any way which seemed satisfactory or to reflect the importance of the issues to the communities in Hackney, Leyton and Walthamstow who are affected. To add insult to injury the activists have been hit with a big bill for trying to ventilate matters of serious public concern and interest affecting many thousands of local residents. That does not seem right to me, as this was an issue which needed to be tested in the courts, not treated punitively as a nuisance by the authorities. If there are sometimes rare cases for legal bills to be met from the public purse and the costs spread through society, this is, in my view, one of them.
As far as I can see, the use of the legal and democratic processes has failed these people, as they ran into a planning system locally which is characterised by block voting on party lines and behaves as if it is rigged against local residents and predisposed to ignore their concerns. Public bodies supposed to respond to public concerns behaved like conspirators behind closed doors and fed the public faits accomplis and disinformation.
Meanwhile, the usual means of peaceful political protests have been severely curtailed in an atmosphere of dread over terrorism and transgressors of laws relating to such protests designed to keep public order - some criminal infractions occurred but public order has not really been threatened on any serious scale - have been threatened with dire consequences should they gather and make their views known for pretty much the rest of the summer.
I am wondering what lessons the local powers-that-be think will be drawn from this escapade by others considering their strategy for disputing contentious local issues in coming years? Will they really expect people to follow and abide by the legal and democratic processes when these have been so signally stacked against them and shown not to work? I know this may surprise some readers here, as I generally hate seeing the council spend our tax money on anything if they can possibly avoid it, but this is one instance when I think the local council should be dipping into its contingency funds and stepping in, ex gratia, to pick up a tab.