JR – Broads can Pretend to be a National Park but without the Sandiford Principle

Harris v Broads Authority

  1. he Claimants say this case raises an important legal issue. “Can a public body which in law is not a National Park, represent itself (and allow itself to be represented) as a National Park and thereby to enjoy the benefits of National Park status despite the fact that that authority has decided to cease to seek to become a National Park inter alia because it does not wish to be subject to the legal duties imposed on National Parks and National Park Authorities?” On the Claimants’ renewed application permission to apply for judicial review was granted by Singh J (see his order dated 12 August 2015).

  2. The Authority was constituted under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988 (“the 1988 Act”) and has a general duty “to manage the Broads for the purposes of –

(a) conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Broads;

(b) promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Broads by the public; and

(c) protecting the interests of navigation.”The Authority is also the local planning authority for the area and a harbour and navigation authority. However, the Broads is not a National Park designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (“the 1949 Act”), nor is the Authority a National Park Authority under that statute. Nevertheless, for many years it has been treated as forming part of the “family” of National Parks. The claim for judicial review challenges a resolution of the Authority passed on 23 January 2015 by which the Authority decided inter alia “that the brand “Broads National Park” be adopted for marketing related purposes…”.

  1. The Claimants live within the area of the Authority. For over 7 years they have been campaigning to protect Catfield Fen within the Broads, a site of international conservation significance and of which they own a large part, against harmful effects arising from water abstraction. In paragraph 3 of his witness statement, Mr. Harris states “my main concern is to conserve the bio-diversity and the environmental value of the Broads Area for future generations; hence my campaigning for the Defendant to either fully become a National Park or, at the very least, to confirm its application of the “Sandford Principle”. If it is not doing this, then it should not hold itself out as a National Park and hence why I am seeking relief through the court in these proceedings.”

  2. The Sandford Principle derives from a Report of the National Park Policies Review Committee chaired by Lord Sandford and published in 1974. Paragraph 2.15 of the Report stated:-

“The first purpose of national parks, as stated by Dower and by Parliament – the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty – seems to us to remain entirely valid and appropriate. The second purpose – the promotion of public enjoyment – however, needs to be re-interpreted and qualified because it is now evident that excessive or unsuitable use may destroy the very qualities that attract people to the parks. We have no doubt that where the conflict between the two purposes, which has always been inherent, becomes acute, the first one must prevail in order that the beauty and ecological qualities of the national parks may be maintained.

  1. The effect of section 11A(2) of the 1949 Act, inserted by section 62 of the Environment Act 1995 some 25 years after the Sandford Report, is that where there is a conflict between on the one hand “conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of” a National Park and on the other “promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of [a National Park] by the public” then greater weight must be given to the former purpose. The Claimants submit that within National Parks the conservation objective is always “uppermost”. In paragraph 6 of his witness statement Mr. Harris says that “The “Sandford Principle” is the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of all National Parks and all National Park Authorities, and gives priority to the purpose of nature conservation over other purposes, such as tourism.”

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