Thomas Bridge 23 January 2015

Council commits ‘worst-ever bungle’ by submitting court papers a day late

A London borough has been branded ‘incompetent’ after its legal challenge against a controversial super-sewer collapsed due to papers being submitted one day late.

Southwark LBC was pushing for a judicial review of the Government’s decision to go ahead with construction of its Thames Tideway Tunnel without reversing tunnelling direction, despite the location being near homes and schools.

However the High Court has now thrown out the council’s application after the town hall failed to submit its application in time.

The confusion centred around new legislation currently before Parliament that will change the time limits for issuing applications for judicial review. While the council said it was working to the time frame of laws currently under debate, the judge applied existing rules to deem the town hall’s application tardy.

Council leader, Cllr Peter John, said the ruling had been based on an ‘ambiguous’ law and voiced his disappointment that ‘Southwark was denied its day in court’.

Lib Dem opposition leader, Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, said the news ranked as one of Southwark’s ‘worst-ever bungles’ and blasted the town hall for being ‘totally incompetent and amateur’.

‘This is a bitter blow for all the residents, local councillors and local MP who have been fighting Thames Water’s plans to build the Super Sewer at Chamber’s Wharf. We all trusted the council to represent our community in court. Now the case for a judicial review has been thrown out all because the council couldn’t manage to submit its paperwork on time,’ Al-Samerai said.

‘The leader of the council must now explain why Southwark has let its residents and our community down so badly.’

The council described the legal case as ‘complex’ and said it was ‘unfortunate’ that the judge disagreed with our lawyers’ interpretation of the legislation and court practice rules’.

Southwark added that the decision emphasised ‘the challenge local communities and councils will face when objecting to major infrastructure projects’.

Cllr John said: ‘This was a ruling on a piece of law that was ambiguous, and had not previously been tested in court. The Government’s changes would have meant that our judicial review was in time. I am very disappointed that Southwark was denied its day in court by this ruling, and hope that the Government now clarifying the law stops this happening to others in the future.

‘We are still vehemently opposed to the scheme which will have a huge impact on local people for the next seven years and again urge ministers to come to Chambers Wharf and see for themselves what their scheme will do to local people.’

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