Save Yeovil Rec campaigner facing prospect of £7,500 legal bill
A campaigner trying to prevent building on a much-loved recreation ground is facing the prospect of picking up a £7,500 legal bill.
South Somerset District Council wants to claim its costs of holding a public inquiry last week against Bob Tucker, the chairman of the Save Yeovil Rec group.
A one-day hearing looked at whether a footpath should be moved to make way for a publicly-funded £800,000 artificial hockey pitch on Yeovil Recreation Ground, affectionately known as Mudford Rec.
Mr Tucker and the Save Yeovil Rec action group oppose building on the popular green space and opposed an order to move the footpath – leading to the inquiry.
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Mr Tucker, as the named objector, is the target of any claims for costs.
The 63-year-old Marsh Lane resident said he was taking the council’s “heavy-handed” action as a threat.
He said at the end of the inquiry the council’s barrister William Webster got up and spoke to Councillor Tim Carroll and assistant-director Steve Joel who were watching the proceedings.
“He came back to his desk and told the inspector that the council want to claim costs from me,” said Mr Tucker.
“I am taking it as a direct threat by the council and its employees.
“It was my understanding that councillors or council staff should not make threats to members of the public.
“I was amazed because they are now trying to claim thousands of pounds from me for exercising my democratic right to challenge the council.
“I think such behaviour from South Somerset District Council could deter people to objecting in the future as they are worried they could be threatened with being thousands of pounds out of pocket.
“The amount of money we are talking about would obviously have a big impact on my and anyone’s livelihood.
“The Save Yeovil Rec group are strong and close-knit and we will get through this like we always have done.”
Planning inspector Roger Pritchard is due to decide whether the footpath can be moved. He will also decide whether Mr Tucker should pay the council’s legal costs.
Save Yeovil Rec spokesman Ashley Strelling condemned the council. He said: “It is completely outrageous that a council would turn on its own residents and threaten one man with its legal costs totalling thousands of pounds.
“If anyone is guilty of wasting taxpayers’ money it is the council. They were the ones who brought about a delay in the inquiry, they are the ones who are so hell-bent in bulldozing their proposals to build on the Rec despite huge public opposition.
“It is pure bully-boy tactics and we feel threatened. It is completely disgusting behaviour.”
South Somerset District Council was approached for comment but the authority only confirmed it was seeking to recover its costs.