Moment of truth for Leighton Buzzard High Court challenge

A High Court challenge over the town council’s actions leading to the restructure of the market is expected to end today with the judge’s ruling.

Campaigner Victoria Harvey has put her money where her mouth is with the challenge and she faces potential liabilities of tens of thousands of pounds if she loses.

High Court

High Court

During a day-long hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday, Miss Harvey represented herself and accused Leighton-Linslade Town Council of failing to adequately consult with traders before changing the market fees last year.

Several of her arguments about the “unfairness” of the new pitch fees were challenged by the judge, who stated the court was solely interested in the consultation process.

Judge Marc Dwight said: “The impact of that decision is not a matter for me, whereas the material they should have looked at in making that decision is.”

The town council issued its press release about changes to market pitch fees on February 28, 2018.

Shortly afterwards, market traders’ representative Dave Gibbons drafted an alternative proposal and submitted a petition of 28 signatures from stallholders against the planned changes.

Miss Harvey insisted that this draft proposal and petition were not appropriately considered by the town council, although the council’s defence argued the petition showed traders were aware of what was happening.

She said: “The traders were not given enough time and there was not a consultation document.

“The market is losing money and the town council subsidises it as a community asset. I think to say that the town council has a merely commercial relationship with the traders is not a fair assessment.

“They said, ‘we’ve had one-to-one meetings with traders, we can’t discuss what was said but we know how they feel’ but there’s nothing from traders to back that up.”

Miss Harvey provided the court with numerous letters from market stallholders to support her case.

Defending Leighton-Linslade Town Council, barrister Jon Holbrook argued that there was no legal duty to consult but nevertheless, the council had done so anyway.

He said: “There has to be something outrageously unfair in the authority’s conduct to enable any expectation challenge to be made...

“This comes to a large extent about market traders being economic actors. Anyone who is an economic actor knows that prices can go up and down, and they need to respond to that.”

Judge Dwight told Miss Harvey, “no-one doubts your commitment” as Wednesday’s hearing drew to a close.