November 24 2014 Latest news:
Jon Vale, West Suffolk reporter
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The future of Mildenhall Stadium hangs in the balance after its owners were told to pay at least £250,000 of their opponents’ costs in a long-running legal battle.
The Supreme Court today handed down its judgement over costs in the case between the stadium and residents Katherine Lawrence and Raymond Shields, who won the case over noise nuisance earlier this year.
As well as their own legal costs, the stadium’s owners – RDC Promotions and Moto-Land UK Ltd – have to pay 60% of the couple’s base costs of £398,000.
They may also have to pay 60% of a further £669,000 owed to the couple’s law firm, Richard Buxton, although the Supreme Court in its judgement said this could change following Government representation.
However, the minimum £238,000 bill still leaves the future of both companies in doubt.
Dave Coventry, of RDC Promotions, said Moto-Land UK was likely to go in voluntary liquidation given it is a limited company, meaning the entire debt will transfer to RDC Promotions, which has unlimited liability.
Mr Coventry runs the company with his brother Ron, with the pair now facing the prospect of the legal costs becoming a personal debt.
“I try not to dwell too much on the issue, because it is soul destroying to lose everything from the time I left school,” Mr Coventry said.
“This is something that our type of business can’t sustain. We’re in a business that just about keeps its head above water.”
Mr Coventry said the two legal teams would now thrash out the terms of any payment, although the Supreme Court is due to break for two months at the end of July.
The Government recently changed the rules surrounding the recovery of costs in “no win no fee” cases.
These new rules could be applied in this case, which predates the legislation given the first hearing at the High Court was in 2009.
Lord Neuberger, the president of the Supreme Court, called the costs associated with the case “very disturbing”.
He added: “The fact that it can cost two citizens £400,000 in legal fees and disbursements to establish and enforce their right to live in peace in their home is on any view highly regrettable.”
The couple were initially only awarded £20,000 in compensation by the High Court, while Ms Lawrence and Mr Shields’ property was worth less than £300,000.
The couple moved to a property 850 yards away from the stadium in West Row in 2006, and began legal action two years later over the noise.
Ms Lawrence and Mr Shields won at the High Court in 2011, but then the Court of Appeal overturned this decision. However, the Supreme Court – the highest court in the land – ruled in favour of the couple.
The ruling also applied an injunction on activities at the stadium should Ms Lawrence and Mr Shields’ bungalow ever be rebuilt, given it was destroyed by fire in 2010.