Beautician turns barrister to win legal battle

A BEAUTICIAN from Essex has won a David and Goliath High Court legal battle against one of the country's biggest homebuilders by turning barrister.

A BEAUTICIAN from Essex has won a David and Goliath High Court legal battle against one of the country's biggest homebuilders by turning barrister.

Georgina Blackwell, 23, had no formal legal training but acted as a barrister for her mother Sandra in a High Court battle against Bellway Homes in a row over access across their garden to a neighbouring development.

Miss Blackwell, of Halstead, was spurred into action when she heard her mother risked losing her Grade II listed home and business and is now considering taking up a career in law.

She said: "I'm a blonde, 23-year-old beautician from Essex, I know it doesn't look good on paper but I think they underestimated me.

"They looked intimidating in their wigs and gowns, it was terrifying. I felt absolutely scared stiff by the huge courtroom and speaking in front of a high court judge but I got a surge of adrenalin and thought, 'they aren't going to intimidate me'.

"When the judgement was read out it was fantastic, it was all I could do to sit still and smile. I just wanted to jump up and down. It was so satisfying that I'd stood up for what I believed and won.”

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Georgina left school after her A levels and had been offered a place to study law at Kingston University in London but was forced to turn down the chance when her mother, Sandra, 52, broke her wrist and could not work in the family-owned beauty salon - The House of Beauty in Halstead.

Miss Blackwell said her mother had bought a 600-year-old home, a former school and tailors, in Halstead to set up a business but soon after moving in Bellway Homes bought up an empty factory which backed onto the garden to build an "exclusive" development of 43 homes worth up to �319, 995 each.

Ms Blackwell was taken to court by the housing giant in July this year when she refused builders access across her garden to demolish two factory walls which form part of Bellway's Church View development.

Miss Blackwell said her mother lost the case and was facing losing their home and business as she had spent �3,000 on legal advice and was ordered to pay Bellway's legal costs of �22,000 as well as a "five figure" sum in damages for delays to the building work.

She said: "It was absolutely horrendous. We thought we were going to become bankrupt and lose absolutely everything, the house and the business. It was hell on earth.”

She claimed after Bellway won the court case in July builders moved onto the garden "filling it with scaffolding".

The Bellway Homes is the 4th biggest housebuilder in the UK and has constructed more than 100,000 homes since the company was formed in 1946. The firm is listed on the London Stock Exchange and employs more than 2,000 people. In October, the company announced an annual turnover of �683.8 million and pre-tax profits of �29.8 million.

Miss Blackwell said she looked over the legal papers and deeds to her mother's house and discovered that the right of access was only to reach one wall of the factory not two.

Believing Bellway had overstepped the rights of access to the garden Miss Blackwell decided to take the case back to the High Court on Monday.

She emerged jubilant on Tuesday when Mrs Justice Proudman ruled in the Ms Blackwell's favour and overturned the previous decision that she had to pay the legal costs and in addition ordered Bellway Homes to pay �75,000 compensation.

Miss Blackwell said: "It's such a massive, massive weight off of our shoulders now we know we are not facing bankruptcy. We stood up for our rights and won."

A spokesman for Bellway said: "We do not wish to comment on the case."