We Love Hackney’s judicial review against council’s nightlife licensing rules in Dalston and Shoreditch is pulled after costs ruling

Old Street and Shoreditch High Street shown in a file image of Hackney's nightlife. Picture: Polly H

Old Street and Shoreditch High Street shown in a file image of Hackney's nightlife. Picture: Polly Hancock. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A judicial review brought by campaign group We Love Hackney (WLH) against the council’s controversial licensing restrictions has been withdrawn after a judge refused to cap its costs.

The group had gone to court with objections to the extension of special policy areas in Dalston and Shoreditch which strive to limit opening hours for new venues to reduce the "cumulative impact" of late night drinking on residents, which WLH says impose "unworkable and unreasonable restraints on late-night operators".

We Love Hackney had applied for an order capping the amount of the council's legal fees for which it could be liable if it lost, which was rejected by Mrs Justice Farbey. She said she had "sympathy for [the council's] submission that this is an industry-driven campaign with the resources to resurrect some form of challenge against the defendant if the present case does not proceed."

WLH said it was left "with no choice" but to vacate the hearing in June, which otherwise would have had it facing legal costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Its directors include director of Street Feast Jonathan Downey and television presenter and chef Griselda Erskine.

Spokesperson and fellow director Matt Sanders accused the council of using "financial muscle" to silence the group and said it had been "bullied out of court".

He said: "We are enormously grateful to every single local resident and business who put their hand in their pockets to fund our case.

"Sadly, our pockets are nowhere near as deep as the council's."

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But Mrs Justice Farbey said she didn't accept that WLH's bosses couldn't pay the costs if necessary: "A number of well-resourced individuals have chosen to litigate the claim via an impecunious [lacking in funds] company which has taken possession of funds donated by members of the public," she said.

"I do not accept on the evidence before me that the claimant would be forced to withdraw the claim through impecuniosity."

Hackney Council went further, with one of its senior solicitors, Butta Singh, claiming it would be "a challenge" to recover even costs already amassed as We Love Hackney was "worthless", having failed to crowdfund the amount it would have needed to repay costs in the event it lost.

Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Dan Beaumont was a director of We Love Hackney. In fact, Mr Beaumont was listed in evidence presented by Hackney Council as having helped set the company up, not as being a director. The Gazette apologises for any confusion caused by this error and is pleased to set the record straight.