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We are delighted that the High Court has quashed an inspector’s decision to remove land at Blackbushe aerodrome, Hampshire, from the register of common land.
Mr Justice Holgate gave judgment1 today following a judicial review brought by Hampshire County Council, the commons registration authority, against the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Blackbushe Airport Ltd (BAL) appeared to defend the inspector’s decision, and the Open Spaces Society intervened in support of the council.
The case concerned a part of Yateley Common which was requisitioned as an RAF base during the Second World War. Although it was de-requisitioned in 1960, it was never handed back to the commoners and continued in use as a private airfield—despite being correctly registered as common land under the Commons Registration Act 1965.
In June 2019, the inspector granted an application made by BAL under the Commons Act 2006, to deregister the aerodrome. The inspector found that the entirety of the present operational area of the aerodrome (around 46.5 hectares or 115 acres) could be deregistered because it was curtilage of the terminal building at the time it was originally registered, and had remained so. The judge found that the inspector’s decision was flawed, and ‘goes way beyond any reasonable meaning that could be given to the phrase “the curtilage of a building”.’
Says Hugh Craddock, one of our case officers: ‘We are delighted with the judgment. Blackbushe aerodrome is no more curtilage of the terminal building than Victoria station is curtilage of the signal box. The ruling supports our view that the Commons Act 2006 was never intended to deregister vast areas of common land. We made detailed submissions to the court and they were critical to the outcome.’
Hugh adds: ‘We congratulate Hampshire County Council on its success in leading the challenge, and offer particular thanks to the society’s legal team in the depth and breadth of its research which helped secure this outcome.’
The society was represented by Philip Petchey of counsel at Francis Taylor Building, instructed by Matthew McFeeley of Richard Buxton, solicitors.
The court, unusually, itself granted permission to appeal on ‘compelling public interest grounds’. The matter will therefore be heard by the Court of Appeal.
March 2021 case update here.
Here are some earlier articles relating to the challenge we have taken on at Yateley Common.
(1) Judgment was given in Hampshire County Council and others v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Blackbushe Airport Ltd.