20th Oct, 2017

Community asked to cough up for legal bill

Coventry Editorial 10th Oct, 2014 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A DESPERATE campaigner facing a huge legal bill is pleading for help from the neighbours he represented.

Tony Griffiths was one of four Coundon residents who led the community’s fight against plans to build a new school on Bablake playing fields.

After suffering defeat in the courts the foursome have been left to pay £259,000 of legal costs on behalf of Coventry School Foundation (CSF), the charity proposing to build the school.

In a bid to raise the cash, the four wrote to 1,400 neighbours in August asking them to stump up £250 each.

But so far they have received just £2,000, almost half of which was donated from people living outside of Coundon.

Having already put thousands of pounds into the dispute, retired Mr Griffiths has now been forced into selling his home and has started looking for work.

Speaking to the Observer, he said: “It has now become a desperate situation. We need our neighbours now, we need them to help us.

“We our losing our homes and they don’t seem to be concerned as it is no longer them who is affected. When we said we would represent them they were all on side, but now we asking them to help us financially they don’t want to know.

“If we don’t get enough money to please the charity they are going to levy the charge on our properties. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

The dispute dates back to 2010 when CSF – which maintains the city’s Bablake and King Henry VIII schools – was granted planning permission for the building intended to merge Cheshunt School and Bablake Junior.

Coundon residents hold a covenant over the fields blocking development which could cause them ‘nuisance’.

They had concerns about the impact of a new access off Norman Place Road and the case went to High Court in March 2013.

After a 10-day battle the resident’s were victorious, but the decision was overturned on appeal later that year.

One of the foursome landed with the bill, 78-year-old retired policeman Mervyn Lewis, has since had his liability removed, but the other three leaders are still facing a struggle to raise the money.

Asked whether it was fair to ask four individuals for the entire bill, a spokesman for the CSF said nobody was forced to enter into legal proceedings.

He added: “They could all have chosen not to participate. They were all made aware of the cost risks and amounts involved and made their own decisions to proceed.

“The Coventry School Foundation obviously had no role or say in any arrangements made between the four and their legal advisors, although the court was told that one of the four had agreed to underwrite the costs of the case. If the Foundation had lost, then it would have been liable for the costs.”

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