Animal Aid

High Court challenge underway

Posted 23 July 2004
Marmoset in cage

High Court challenge to Government's approval of Cambridge monkey centre

Monday (July 26) marks the start of a High Court action by Animal Aid and the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) to have the decision of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to allow Cambridge University to build a monkey laboratory on Green Belt land, quashed.

The landmark case goes to the heart of Government responsibility to give the public a fair hearing, and questions the influence of the Prime Minister and Science Minister Lord Sainsbury over the public inquiry process.

Neil King, QC, will argue for Animal Aid and NAVS that the outcome of the Public Inquiry into the monkey laboratory was predetermined. The Government had made up its mind; both the Prime Minister and Science Minister had made public statements which amounted to interference with the Public Inquiry process.

It has since been revealed that key evidence opposing the lab was not sent to the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) for him to consider before making his decision.

The case for Animal Aid and NAVS will also argue that the permission granted by John Prescott is wrong: Although permission was sought to use Green Belt land under a legal clause of 'very special circumstances' - 'national interest' - the permission that has been granted is for any kind of 'research and development of products and processes'. This means that any kind of industry can move onto the site.

Mr Prescott has insisted on defending his decision in court even though the University announced on January 27 this year that it had abandoned the project. Animal Aid and NAVS feel compelled to challenge the Government because the planning permission that has been granted is active for five years. So Cambridge University is still free to build the lab.

Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid and Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of NAVS, said in a joint statement:

"The Prime Minister, John Prescott, and Lord Sainsbury appear to be riding roughshod over public opinion and the facts of this case. They appear to have chosen to ignore any evidence which did not support the case they had advocated from the outset."

Norna Hughes of Nabarro Nathanson, solicitors for Animal Aid and NAVS, summed up this important case:

Primate in brain experiment. Photo credit: ISAV

"My clients are two sophisticated lobby groups whose aim is to protect animals in an entirely peaceful manner.

"All my clients have sought, throughout this whole process was a fair Hearing. They always thought, however, that the outcome was a foregone conclusion that such a perception was created as early as the inquiry process itself, was acknowledged by the Inspector in his Report to the Deputy Prime Minister.

"After hearing all the evidence, the Inspector submitted a Report to the Deputy Prime Minister recommending planning permission be refused. He attached all the evidence he had received except for that from my clients. He noted this omission when forwarding his Report.

"Nevertheless, the Deputy Prime Minister did not consider it necessary before granting planning permission to see any of my client's evidence, an indication, we say, of the weight he intended to give that evidence. The Deputy Prime Minister's response has been that it would not have made any difference, which only goes to underline my client's point.

"However, in trying to defend his decision, the Deputy Prime Minister has now asserted, that he is under no legal obligation to consider any of the evidence, he can just rely upon the Inspector's Report, a principle never previously established or ruled upon by the Courts.

"However, this case has wider implications, the Deputy Prime Minister did not just rely on the Inspector's Report as he did have all the evidence in support of the proposal and he relied on that to differ from his Inspector and grant planning permission. It appears as though the Deputy Prime Minister is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

"It is important to maintain the integrity of the planning process, people are affected by planning decisions on a daily basis and they have a right for their views to be taken fairly and objectively into account, otherwise what is the point of public consultation?

"My clients are simply asking the Court to be a check and balance here and uphold their right to a fair Hearing."

Monkeys in cage

"However, in trying to defend his decision, the Deputy Prime Minister has now asserted, that he is under no legal obligation to consider any of the evidence, he can just rely upon the Inspector's Report, a principle never previously established or ruled upon by the Courts.

"However, this case has wider implications, the Deputy Prime Minister did not just rely on the Inspector's Report as he did have all the evidence in support of the proposal and he relied on that to differ from his Inspector and grant planning permission. It appears as though the Deputy Prime Minister is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

"It is important to maintain the integrity of the planning process, people are affected by planning decisions on a daily basis and they have a right for their views to be taken fairly and objectively into account, otherwise what is the point of public consultation?

"My clients are simply asking the Court to be a check and balance here and uphold their right to a fair Hearing."

Notes to Editors

  • For more information contact:
    Animal Aid: Andrew Tyler 01732 364546.
    NAVS: Jan Creamer Chief Executive, Tim Phillips Campaigns Director 020 8846 9777. www.navs.org.uk

  • For background see the Cambridge campaign index and Statement in response to Government 'clamp down' on animal rights activists.

  • Full grounds of appeal available on request.

  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast quality interviews.

  • Both Animal Aid and NAVS are opposed to all violence to humans and animals, using only peaceful and lawful means to influence policy and opinion.

  • John Prescott has over ruled the local authority, police and his own planning inspector to allow Cambridge University to build a huge monkey laboratory in the Cambridgeshire Green Belt where monkeys will be used in neurology experiments.

  • For over three years the proposals have been opposed not just by Animal Aid and NAVS, but by South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire Police:-

    • The University's proposal for the laboratory was first rejected by South Cambridgeshire District Council in 2001, because of the impact it would have on the green belt.
    • In February 2002 the University's appeal was rejected, this time because of recommendations by the police.
    • For two weeks from 26 November 2002 a Public Inquiry was heard by Planning Inspector Stuart Nixon.
    • Concluding statements were made to the Inquiry on 8 January 2003, and the Planning Inspector subsequently delivered his report to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott - who delivered his decision to overrule his own Inspector on 21 November 2003.
    • Cambridge University retain permission to build the monkey laboratory for the next five years, and can extend the permission beyond this.

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