Louth Town Councillors have voted in favour of pressing ahead with a judicial review into the controversial sale of the Cattle Market, joining forces with campaign group Keep Louth Special to cover the cost of the review.
The Mayor of Louth, Councillor Andrew Leonard, and Keep Louth Special spokesperson Nick Louth met with top barrister Sam Skinner who specialises in judicial review cases, and will only take on cases if he is “99 per cent sure he is going to win”, according to the Mayor.
The legal action follows East Lindsey District Council’s decision to sell the Cattle Market site to Asda back in July, as Louth Town Council believes that the decision-making process was flawed.
At the Louth Town Council meeting last Tuesday, Coun Leonard revealed that a potential ‘trump card’ for the Town Council is being researched by their barrister as a matter of priority, as an old cutting from the London Gazette about the 1848 Louth Markets and Improvement Act appears to bestow ownership of the Cattle Market to the Mayor of Louth.
If it can be demonstrated that the 1972 Local Government Act did not explicitly mention the 1848 Act, then it may be the case that the 1848 Act was never superseded and continues to be in force - with potentially huge consequences for the sale.
If this potential trump card fails to deliver, then the Town Council has agreed to contribute up to a maximum of £12,500 from their
reserves - around half of the predicted cost of the judicial review - with Keep Louth Special covering the other half from public donations, many of which have already been received.
Coun Leonard explained that payment of bills throughout the judicial review process would firstly come out of Keep Louth Special’s funds, with the Town Council effectively ‘underwriting’ the remaining costs (up to the £12,500 maximum) if Keep Louth Special are unable to pay the full sum.
Coun Leonard said: “At the rate Keep Louth Special are going, it is more than likely that we won’t be going into our budget”, and Coun George Horton added: “One businessman has put £10,000 into the pot, and another one’s put £1,000 into the pot - and they haven’t asked for any money yet.
“If all the local businesses all chipped in and put a hundred quid in, then they would reach that money - it wouldn’t cost Louth Town Council anything.”
Coun Laura Stephenson was less enthusiastic about the plans, and said: “It doesn’t matter whether Louth Town Council and Keep Louth Special are getting all of the money they could possibly need, because East Lindsey District Council is still going to have to pay for their side of it.
“It’s us, as taxpayers, who have got to pay. If we are going to seriously ask the people of Louth to be spending that much money, we need to have a referendum to know we have all of them behind us.
“That is the only way that we can allow that to happen.”
Coun Leonard responded that an extensive survey during the formulation of the Louth Town Plan a few years ago suggested that “85 per cent of the population didn’t want a supermarket in Louth”, and added: “That, to me, speaks volumes.”
Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Move Louth Forward, the pro-supermarket campaign group, said: “Move Louth Forward are sure that the councillors are men and women of integrity and only want to do the best for the town, but their argument has been lost about the sale of the Cattle Market.
“To continue arguing about it is only going to cause misery and expense to the ratepayer.
“Lawyers will be the only benefactors of the expense that will be incurred by continuing along this pathway of litigation.”
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