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Supreme Court refuses permission to appeal over decision by Welsh council to shut leisure centre

The Supreme Court has refused permission to appeal in a dispute over a Welsh council’s decision to implement a sports and recreation strategy for 2019-20, it has emerged.

Under the strategy adopted by the Cabinet at Caerphilly County Borough Council, 10 leisure centres would be consolidated to four to save money.

In a claim for judicial review Shane Williams, a regular user of Pontllanfraith leisure centre who had campaigned against its closure, contended that both decisions, to adopt the strategy and to close the Pontllanfraith centre, were unlawful.

Swift J dismissed the claim so far as the decision to adopt the strategy was concerned, but held that the decision to close the centre was unlawful for failure to comply with the public sector equality duty.

Before the Court of Appeal Mr Williams contended that the decision to adopt the strategy was unlawful. There was no cross-appeal by the council so far as the decision to close the Pontllanfraith centre was concerned.

In Williams, R (On the Application Of) v Caerphilly County Borough Council [2020] EWCA Civ 296 the claimant argued that:

(1) the decision to adopt the strategy was a decision which could only be made by the full council;

(2) the Cabinet failed to have regard to the cost of implementing the strategy which was a material consideration; and

(3) the strategy was an "arrangement to secure continuous improvement in the exercise" of the council's functions within the meaning of section 2 of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 ("the 2009 Measure") which required the council to have regard to the efficiency (and thus the cost) of its proposals and to undertake a consultation pursuant to section 5 of the Measure.

However, the Court of Appeal concluded in March 2020 that the local authority had taken a lawful decision to implement the strategy.

A panel of Supreme Court justices comprising Lord Hodge, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lord Burrows concluded in August that the application did not raise an arguable point of law. The decision was revealed by the publication this month of the Supreme Court's permission decisions for July to September 2020.