A CAMPAIGNER facing massive legal costs in her battle to protect the historic town of St Andrews from developers has had her liability limited by the Supreme Court.
In what is believed to be a legal first, Penelope Uprichard has been granted a protective costs order (PCO) of £6,000, which means that if she loses, the other parties can claim only £3,000 each from her.
“I am advised by my lawyers that this is probably the first protective costs order to be awarded by the Supreme Court for a Scottish case,” she said. “In contrast, the first orders to be agreed in Scotland [known as protective expenses orders] were for much higher sums, of £30-40,000.”
Miss Uprichard, a retired hospital public relations officer, was left facing a legal bill of £173,000 after twice failing in the Court of Session in Edinburgh to challenge approval by ministers of Fife’s structure plan. The plan proposes housing development, a science park and a business park for west St Andrews.
Miss Uprichard was ordered to pay her own legal expenses of £55,000 as well as those of ministers, £58,000, and the council, £60,000. She has now taken her fight with Scottish ministers and Fife Council to the Supreme Court in London.
Her appeal is due to be heard in March next year. Should she lose, Miss Uprichard believes that, in spite of the PCO, she will still have to find about £50,000 to cover all her own outlays and those of the other sides.
“I am appealing to everyone who has visited St Andrews, lived here, or played golf here, to consider contributing to ‘The Challenge Fund’. Now that our structure and local plans have been approved, this is the only way in which it may be possible to prevent a tidal wave of development from overwhelming this small historic town,” she said. “It has been a bad year for access to environmental justice and for the Scottish landscape, with legal challenges to the Hunterston power plant, the Trump proposal and the Aberdeen bypass all being refused, in addition to my case.
“The huge price of environmental litigation emphasises the serious doubts many people have about democracy in our planning system. Individuals who want to challenge the views of unelected officials risk the imposition of ruinous and potentially life-changing costs.”
Miss Uprichard has set up a website, savingstandrews.org.uk. In the past, she has taken, and lost, court actions against a £50 million golf course development at St Andrews Bay, and the erection of pay-and-display parking ticket machines in the town centre.
In ordering her to meet the £173,000 bill in the latest litigation, Lord Gill, the Lord Justice-Clerk, said: “Those who challenge decisions of this nature enter into litigation with their eyes open. They have to expect that if they should fail, the normal consequence will be that they will be liable in expenses.
“It would be reckless for a litigant to embark on a case of this kind in the hope that if he should fail, the court would relieve him of his liability for the expenses he caused thereby.”