R (Harris) v Broads Authority  EWHC 799 (Admin) (Admin Ct): the issue in this case was whether the Authority, which in law was not a National Park, could represent itself (and allow itself to be represented) as a National Park and thereby to enjoy the benefits of National Park status despite the fact that the Authority had decided to cease to seek to become a National Park because it did not wish to be subject to the legal duties imposed on National Parks and National Park Authorities.
The Authority was constituted under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988 and was also the local planning authority for the area and a harbour and navigation authority. However, it was not a National Park designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, nor was it a National Park Authority under that statute; however, for many years it had been treated as forming part of the "family" of National Parks. H, who were residents in the Authority's area, applied for judicial review of the Authority's decision that the Authority's area be rebranded as the "Broads National Park" for marketing-related purposes. It was agreed that the Authority had not sought to re-brand itself, or to describe itself as a National Park Authority. H contended that: the decision was ultra vires as it was outside the scope of s.111 LGA 1972,as that section did not give the Authority power to make a decision incompatible with the statutory code imposed by the 1949 Act; and it was misleading as use of the phrase "Broads National Park" in promotional literature would mislead a reasonable member of the public into thinking that the Sandford Principle, which required National Parks to give conservation priority over promotion of public enjoyment, was applicable within the Broads.
The court held, dismissing the application, that branding decision taken by the Authority could not be regarded as having any misleading effect as to the statutory functions of either the Broads or the Authority and no abuse of power had occurred. In the context of branding or marketing, the term "National Park" used ordinary language, and not a statutory concept, to evoke the nationally important qualities of the area and stimulate public enjoyment of, and potentially visits to, that area. No reasonable member of the public would see the use of the words "Broads National Park" in promotional literature as referring to the specific legal regimes governing either the Broads or National Parks in the UK. The Authority's resolution was essentially concerned with a decision on branding which did not depend upon whether the Sandford Principle should be adopted, whether now or in the future. Any debate about whether that principle should be adopted in the longer term would be a matter for the review of the Broads Plan. (12 April 2016)