Firms abandon Olympics legal challenge

 

Scores of small businesses have withdrawn their legal challenge to the organisers of the Olympics over planned road closures and security restrictions which they claim will put hundreds of jobs at risk.

Test cases were due to be launched at the High Court in London today, with affected business leaders in Hackney, east London, saying companies could collapse.

A legal spokesman for the businesses said they had to withdraw because "of lack of time" and because the businesses could not compete with the "bottomless pockets and blank cheque books" of the Olympic Delivery Authority.

About 50 businesses employing hundreds of people are affected and range from transport firms to printers, cafes, garages and retailers.

Their solicitor, John Halford, from legal firm Bindmans, told Mr Justice Singh the case was being "withdrawn - in total" on the basis that no order was made for legal costs.

The judge approved the settlement.

Outside court, Mr Halford said the businesses "are basically going to have to struggle for survival".

He said one company - Business Solutions - had already shut down.

Those affected trade in the Hackney Wick and Fish Island area which is on the "Olympic fringe".

All are just outside a compulsory purchase zone, inside which 193 affected companies were given compensation and new premises.

Mr Halford said the case could not proceed because of time pressures and because the businessmen, who do not qualify for legal aid, could not compete with the financial clout of the Olympics organisers and Transport for London (TfL).

The ODA had hired "a team of several City lawyers" to defend the road closures and restrictions, he said.

There had been discussions between both sides "but not much meeting of minds".

The case was abandoned in the same week as residents of flats in the 17-storey Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, east London, lost a legal battle to stop the roof of their block being turned into a missile base as part of plans to counter any terrorist threat to the Olympic Park in Stratford.

A judge upheld a Ministry of Defence refusal to put up frightened residents in hotels for the duration of the Games or site the air defence missile system elsewhere.

The businessmen had planned to challenge the legality of traffic management regulations which restrict movements of vehicles using the Olympic route network.

They complain the restrictions unlawfully affect their right of access to their own premises and also affect the access rights of their suppliers and customers.

They say the ODA does not have the power in all the circumstances to impose the restrictions under the relevant traffic management order.

They say the authority has failed to assess their need for reasonable access to their premises or made appropriate exemptions.

There has also been a failure to offer to compensate or relocate affected businesses.

An Olympic Delivery Authority spokesman said: "We welcome the fact that the case has been dropped and we can focus on our operational responsibilities during Games-time.

"We have been clear from the start that engagement with businesses has gone far beyond our statutory obligations. Businesses and residents were first made aware of these changes last summer, 2011, and a formal consultation period began in November 2011.

"Advice and assistance, as well as online tools, remain available to businesses to help them plan for the Games. As you'd expect we will constantly review and monitor our arrangements to ensure that everyone can get to their destinations safely and on time this summer."

PA

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