Animal Aid

A bad day for democracy

Posted 30 July 2004
Baby monkey

Cambridge primate High Court ruling: a statement by Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid

This is a good day for an already over powerful government, but a bad day for democracy - especially local democracy.

Some 18 months ago, a government-appointed planning Inspector heard evidence for and against Cambridge University's plan for a massive monkey research centre on green belt land. The Inspector judged that the University had failed to demonstrate that the proposed experiments would benefit human medicine, and said the centre should not be built.

The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) high-handedly rejected his own Inspector's recommendation and gave the University permission to proceed. In doing so, John Prescott did the bidding of Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, a man with a major stake in the biotechnology industry and who, in recent years, has donated at least £14.5 million to the Labour Party. The decision smacks both of predetermination and cronyism.

Today in the High Court Justice Collins found in favour of the DPM. This is a direct attack on the integrity of the planning process. It is a bad day for democracy, a bad day for animals in laboratories - who suffer grievously as a result of such experiments - and a bad day for patients with serious neurological illnesses, who need modern relevant research.

The battle to ensure the monkey centre is never built will continue.

The following is a statement by Norna Hughes, Solicitor acting on behalf of Animal Aid and the National Anti-Vivisection Society:

The consequences of this case are that if the government supports a controversial planning application, say road building or nuclear facility or, as here, an animal testing facility and the public want to oppose it they will be wasting their time if a government department writes a letter to say its a very important scheme and needed in this location. After that anything that goes to the heart of whether its to be permitted or not is irrelevant, only local issues such as traffic and what it will look like can now be considered. Effectively the requirement to evaluate all relevant views is replaced, in such cases, by a requirement to grant planning permission unless the site cannot physically accommodate the development.

Primate in brain experiment. Photo credit: ISAV

The judgement in this case has wide ranging and dangerous implications for planning decisions. The Cambridge decision has severely curtailed the legal rights of the public to have their views on planning applications heard, yet alone taken into account, which is an erosion of local democracy in favour of centralised decision making and runs counter to the stated objective of the government to promote greater local involvement in planning decisions.

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 nearly four 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 announced on January 27 2004 that they were abandoning the project, but could change their mind. Today's High Court decision means it retains permission to build the monkey laboratory for the next five years, and can extend the permission beyond this.

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