Businessman will back land deal court challenge

A wealthy businessman is preparing to spend thousands of pounds bankrolling a High Court challenge to a controversial Waveney land deal, it emerged last night.

A wealthy businessman is preparing to spend thousands of pounds bankrolling a High Court challenge to a controversial Waveney land deal, it emerged last night.

Mervyn Lambert, whose plant hire firm boasts a £12m annual turnover, insisted he was so sure of his position that he would shell out in the region of £60,000 to sponsor the Lowestoft Air Festival for two years if a judge rules against him.

In a move that could cost him about £15,000 in legal fees, Mr Lambert has instructed his solicitors to seek a judicial review over Waveney District Council's decision to dispose of the dilapidated North Denes Caravan Park, in Lowestoft, to a private operator.

Protesters claim the site has been used by the public for many years, meaning the council has no right to sell it off, and Mr Lambert has pledged to provide them with the financial clout to fight their case.

It is the latest twist in a long-running and bitter wrangle, which saw Waveney first vote to privatise the site in 2004 and again last September. Last night, council bosses insisted they were confident of they had followed correct procedures and could successfully defend any action.

Mr Lambert, who runs Mervyn Lambert Plant Hire at Garboldisham, in south Norfolk, said: “My position could be wrong, but I am within my rights to ask a judge to make a judgement. If I am wrong, so be it; if I am right, so be it.

Most Read

“If I am wrong, I will apologise to the people of Lowestoft and will sponsor the airshow for the next two years - that is a promise. The council has called me a troublemaker and do not listen to me, but we will see what a judge says.

“I have people asking me why I am doing it, but they can't see that I am fighting for truth and justice. The fact of the matter is that the North Denes site is open space and always has been.”

Last month, the Preserve Our North Denes Association (Ponda) announced a legal bid to have the land given town green status in a bid to scupper Waveney's plans and ensure members of the public had free access to the site.

Underpinning the application to Suffolk County Council is the claim that the public has had unrestricted access to the North Denes site for many years and Mr Lambert's application for judicial review is being made on the same basis.

As revealed in the EDP last week, the county council says a public inquiry could be held to determine the bid to have the site declared a town green, but Mr Lambert believes this may not be needed if a High Court judge rules against Waveney.

A letter to him from his solicitors, Ipswich-based Gotelee & Goldsmith, reveals if a judge decides there is a case to be answered a full hearing could take place in about three months.

Mr Lambert, 58, used to live in a house on Gunton Cliff, overlooking North Denes, but recently moved to Norfolk. He stressed, though, that he still felt a sense of duty to represent the people of Lowestoft's Harbour ward.

Waveney District Council said it could not afford to meet the costs of continuing to run North Denes, but stressed that 33 acres of the site would be landscaped for public use.

A spokesman said yesterday: “Although we would not wish to respond directly to the proposed actions of individuals, we are completely satisfied that proper processes have been followed throughout.”

Mr Lambert is no stranger to taking legal action and in 1999 he spent £25,000 helping a group take English Heritage to court in a bid to stop its excavation work at Holme, in Norfolk, where a 4,000-year-old timber circle, known as Seahenge, had been discovered. The judge did not rule in their favour, but urged English Heritage to consult more closely with the public.