Lawyers claim council is using Covid-19 restrictions as a pretext
Picture: Ravenscourt Park Farmers' Market
Hammersmith and Fulham Council (H&F) has served an injunction against RMS Markets the organiser of the farmers’ markets that take place in Ravenscourt Park and Bishops Park.
The injunction was served without notice on Friday 30 April and legal representatives of RMS Markets have signalled their intention to get it set aside on the basis that the Council is using Covid-19 as a pretext for closing these markets while allowing others in the borough to continue.
Ross Spurrier of RMS Markets was informed in March that the events would be allowed to resume on 12 April in line with the relaxing of government restrictions.
However, about a week prior to restarting the markets, he was e-mailed by the Council and informed that it had changed its mind and that he and other concession-holders would no longer be allowed to open, owing to the Council’s concerns about increased footfall in the parks and its desire to prioritise sports usage of the parks.
This was then followed by the injunction which aimed to prevent the markets proceeding in defiance of the Council’s ban.
Mr Spurrier said, “Given that non-essential shops are now open, pubs and restaurants can serve outside, hairdressers, gyms and beauty salons are all open and infection rates continue to fall throughout London, we have asked what this supposed ‘public health advice’ is. We have seen none, and from what the Council has disclosed to us there was no such evidence presented during the meeting in April when it decided to change its mind and keep our markets closed.
“The Council is promoting a non-ticketed, outdoor and open-to-all event, ‘The Green Meet’, in Fulham Palace, adjacent to Bishop’s Park on 2 May, which will include ‘garden tours, talks by experts, children’s activities, cookery demonstrations, a green market and live music’. The Council have sited ‘space’ as a factor for deciding to close our markets. But Fulham Palace is 5.2 hectares, while Bishop’s Park is 10.5 hectares. I simply don’t understand their reasoning.”
A petition to re-open the markets received over 1,300 signatures and Mr Spurrier says local people and businesses have donated generously to a legal fighting fund. A JustGiving crowdfunding page raised its target of £5,000.
He is challenging the Council with the help of his barristers Robert Griffiths QC and Nicola Strachan of 6 Pump Court, and through his law firm Spencer West, Mr Spurrier.
Mr Griffiths, a consumer champion who has successfully taken on similar cases against Camden Council and other local authorities, said, “This is an example of a council trying to get, through the back door, what it couldn't get through the front door. It is action taken under the illegitimate cover of Covid-19 regulations to achieve an otherwise unlawful purpose.
“There is no justification, in either public or private law, for what this Council is seeking to do. It is acting unlawfully, unreasonably, disproportionately and in breach of contract.”
Paolo Caldato, Commercial Dispute Resolution Partner at Spencer West, added, “It has become clear that London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Council has acted without any regard to the Coronavirus No.3 Regulations. The Council has produced no real evidence that it acted on the basis of any such public health advice, or indeed any substantial evidence that the markets cause a material increase in footfall in the parks, nor that such an increase poses any risk.
“Other concession holders have been permitted to continue to operate in the parks, despite the Council alleging that it has suspended all such activities. We also have evidence that the Council has substantially suspended all sports usage of the parks during the hours of operation of the markets, so it is not clear exactly how sports are being prioritised.”
Mr Caldato added that his firm believes that the true motive for the Council’s conduct is its intention to put out the concessions to tender and that they are using supposed concerns about coronavirus as a convenient smoke-screen.”
H&F Council have been asked for a comment.
Like Reading Articles Like This? Help Us Produce More
This site remains committed to providing local community news and public interest journalism.
Articles such as the one above are integral to what we do. We aim to feature as much as possible on local societies, charities based in the area, fundraising efforts by residents, community-based initiatives and even helping people find missing pets.
We’ve always done that and won’t be changing, in fact we’d like to do more.
However, the readership that these stories generates is often below that needed to cover the cost of producing them. Our financial resources are limited and the local media environment is intensely competitive so there is a constraint on what we can do.
We are therefore asking our readers to consider offering financial support to these efforts. Any money given will help support community and public interest news and the expansion of our coverage in this area.
A suggested monthly payment is £8 but we would be grateful for any amount for instance if you think this site offers the equivalent value of a subscription to a daily printed newspaper you may wish to consider £20 per month. If neither of these amounts is suitable for you then contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up an alternative. All payments are made through a secure web site.
One-off donations are also appreciated. Choose The Amount You Wish To Contribute.
If you do support us in this way we’d be interested to hear what kind of articles you would like to see more of on the site – send your suggestions to the editor.
For businesses we offer the chance to be a corporate sponsor of community content on the site. For £30 plus VAT per month you will be the designated sponsor of at least one article a month with your logo appearing if supplied. If there is a specific community group or initiative you’d like to support we can make sure your sponsorship is featured on related content for a one off payment of £50 plus VAT. All payments are made through a secure web site.
May 3, 2021