Legal team scoop Local Government Award for work on Gosport's Eclipse Bus Rapid Transit
Friday, 29 June 2012
The complex legal work surrounding the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route in Gosport has been recognised nationally with Hampshire County Council's Legal Services scooping the MJ (Municipal Journal) Award for best legal team.
Evidence of innovation in dealing with range complex legal matters
The judges were looking for evidence of innovation and creativity, great leadership and management, a positive impact on the local community, and value for money. The award recognises how the County Council dealt with a range of complex legal matters around the planning and development of the scheme, undertaking in parallel a number of potentially conflicting roles throughout.
The BRT scheme won funding from the Homes and Communities Agency in March 2009. The plan was to bring back a disused railway line into a public transport route as a modern dedicated busway, offering a viable transport option to one of the most congested roads in South Hampshire. However, elements of the planning application granted in July 2009 were challenged in a judicial review in the High Court by a local resident including an application for an injunction to stop the works. Once this had been dismissed by the High Court, the case was then submitted to the Court of Appeal (including a further application for an injunction), and eventually the Supreme Court, where it was finally dismissed in 2011 - resulting in a new interpretation of the law regarding wildlife habitats.
In addition, the scheme attracted two applications for registration of Town/Village Greens on the route, which could have potentially stopped the scheme entirely, but these were also refused following non-statutory public inquiries.
Government funding for the scheme was granted on condition that funds were drawn down within a certain timeframe, so timing was of the essence throughout the process, not only to fend off the legal challenge but also to ensure all elements were dealt with in the most proactive and co-ordinated manner.
Eclipse BRT has seen an increase of 20% in bus usage in the area
The Eclipse BRT route opened earlier this year, and has already seen an increase of 20% in bus patronage in the area.
Councillor Ken Thornber, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said:
"This prestigious award recognises the qualities that make an in-house legal services team effective, utilising the expertise and innovation of staff to add value and enable the Council to achieve an important strategic objective.
"The Eclipse BRT scheme is an important one for South Hampshire. We have successfully brought a disused railway line back into public use by transforming it into a dedicated busway, fit for travel in the 21st century, providing people with a viable and reliable public transport alternative in one of the most congested areas of South Hampshire. However, as is often the case when new and innovative ideas are put into place, plans do not always run as smoothly as we hope, and I would like to thank the County Council's Legal Services for their excellent work in ensuring this scheme came to fruition, making day to day travelling for many people in South Hampshire very much easier than it was before."