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'Devastated' campaigners lose legal battle to stop container homes being built on Hainault park

PUBLISHED: 13:00 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:05 01 August 2019

Manford Way park. Picture: Ken Mears

Manford Way park. Picture: Ken Mears

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Campaigners fighting to stop their park in Hainault from being used for temporary housing for homeless families have been left "devastated" after losing their legal battle.

Campaigners in Hainault held a walk on June 2 to raise awareness of how much the green spaces are valued by the community. Picture: Jim BennettCampaigners in Hainault held a walk on June 2 to raise awareness of how much the green spaces are valued by the community. Picture: Jim Bennett

A legal challenge was mounted last month against Redbridge Council's decision to build 60 units of modular housing in Woodman Road park, near Manford Way, for a 10-year period.

A campaign group of residents was set up with the shared aim of saving green spaces in Hainault by overturning the planning decision to build housing on "valued park areas" and the group applied for a judicial review, which was dealt with by the High Court.

The campaigners accused the council of not taking local plan policies into consideration, "insufficient reasoning" on how it reached a decision and inadequate consultation with a nearby care home.

But the court ruled in favour of the council and campaigners have now lost the right to appeal the planning decision.

Council leader, Councillor Jas Athwal, said the court costs awarded to the council will be invested in play equipment for parks in Hainault.

Campaigner Caroline Porter said: "We are all thoroughly disappointed with the courts decision but our fight has to end here.

"Thank you all for your fundraising efforts which have helped pay the legal costs for this case.

"The only good thing to come out of this is the reinvigorated community spirit."

More than £10,000 has been raised by the community to fund the legal challenge and the group has now been ordered to pay £3,766 to Redbridge Council in legal fees.

Campaigner Ashley Papworth said: "I know I am not alone when I say I am deeply upset, angry and in shock that we cannot get the result that the Hainault community deserves.

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"More than 4,000 names on a petition against the plans and a record breaking 1,250 individual objections to just one planning application.

"Where is the fairness in this process? Why did the council feel that our little park is worth less than the big parks in the richer areas? Why have they chosen to ignore a whole community?

"Today, we are devastated. I am not ashamed to admit that I myself have shed tears, followed by waves of anger, frustration, loss and every other negative emotion."

Resident Paul Scott said the container homes should be dismantled after the 10-year period so the park can return to its original use.

"Redbridge needs to preserve all of its green spaces for the social as well as environmental benefit of those that live here," he said.

But Ashley said she has "never been so proud" of the community in Hainault.

She said: "It has been an absolute pleasure to meet so many other local residents. It has brought the community together.

"I promise that with any remaining funds, we will be holding a free event for people to come and enjoy a get together."

Cllr Athwal said: "Although the council is pleased with the court's ruling that all planning procedure was followed correctly and a lawful decision was made, it is never our intention or desire to oppose residents.

"I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the residents of Hainault for fighting for what they believe in and for joining together and running a passionate campaign. Decisions like these are never taken lightly and I understand the anguish some residents must feel at this result.

"However we must balance the needs of local homeless families with the wishes of residents who already have a roof over their heads. We want to keep as many homeless families in the borough, close to their families, support networks and schools, so they can get back on their feet.

"Unfortunately the council are not legally able to refuse the costs the court awarded following this case, however we will use all the costs plus additional funding to invest in play equipment in Hainault parks.

"I hope now this case is closed we can move forward with Hainault residents and work together to invest in the local community facilities there."

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