On Friday the High Court handed down judgment in R (Stubbs) v Lake District National Park Authority  EWHC 2293 (Admin), dismissing a judicial review brought by an environmental campaign group of the refusal by the Park Authority to make a traffic regulation order (“TRO”) prohibiting 4x4s on two roads in the Lake District National Park.
The case is of legal significance because it examines the important but barely litigated “Sandford principle” which dictates the way in which National Park Authorities exercise their functions. In summary, the Sandford principle as enacted by s.11A(2) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 provides that where there appears to be a conflict between the National Park statutory purposes of conserving and enhancing natural beauty on the one hand and promoting opportunities for enjoyment by the public on the other, greater weight must be attached to the former purpose.
The Claimant contended that the Park Authority had acted unlawfully in asking itself whether, as the threshold for attaching greater weight to the conservation purpose, there was an “irreconcilable” conflict between the two purposes as opposed to mere conflict. However, Mr Justice Dove ultimately rejected this argument, finding that as only conflicts of a certain magnitude were intended to trigger the presumption in s.11A(2), it was a matter of “semantics” whether the Park Authority considered whether there was a “conflict” or an “irreconcilable conflict”. The court also took the opportunity to consider the application of the Sandford principle more generally.
The case has received significant press coverage, including in today’s Guardian.
The judgment can be accessed for free here.
Katherine Barnes acted for the Claimant, instructed by James Pavey at Irwin Mitchell.