Unlike the United States, English litigants who lose in court must pay the winners’ legal fees. This can have a sobering effect on towns that join pressure groups of their residents to fight development on spurious grounds.
A long-running dispute involving a rare bird has cost taxpayers nearly £500,000.
Portsmouth City Council is to pay £475,000 in legal fees after losing a string of court battles with defence giant QinetiQ.
It had tried to stop the firm’s plans for a road to three new blocks of flats it was building overlooking a nudist beach near Fort Cumberland in Eastney.
It said the work may harm the legally protected Dartford warbler thought to be nesting nearby.
But after racking up £150,000 in legal fees, and with a ruling saying further searches for the rare bird were unnecessary, the council had to agree to the road.
So had the rare birds flocked together to persuade the town to expose itself to such grievous liability? No, it was birds of no feathers.
Naturists launched a campaign to stop the development amid fears that it would prevent them using the beach.
Here in the Land of the Free, opponents of projects they don’t like also exploit our environmental laws and every other legal leverage tool they can find to delay and even stop developers; the difference is, our system doesn’t make them responsible for the costs of their tactics. The English system would give them pause.