(1) Secretary of State for Transport (2) Port of London Authority v Grafton Group (UK) plc and ors  EWCA Civ 561
In one of Lord Justice Law’s final acts on the bench, the Court of Appeal has upheld Ouseley J’s quashing of the Port of London Authority’s CPO of a large Thameside site. The site sits on the north bank of the Thames, between East India Dock and Trinity Buoy Wharf, opposite the O2.
The case saw the Court of Appeal tackle the interpretation of section 24 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 for the first time. The decision (judgment of the Court given by Laws LJ) confirms that the CPO as a whole is quashed, not merely the Secretary of State’s decision to confirm the CPO. It represents the end, subject to any appeal up, of some six years of contested compulsory purchase proceedings over the land, which is a ‘safeguarded wharf’ by dint of mayoral direction but has huge potential for mixed use. Those six years included a public inquiry lasting for over five-weeks, followed by a three-day hearing in the High Court and, finally, a two-day hearing in the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the arguments of the Port of London Authority and the Secretary of State regarding the interpretation of section 24 of the 1981 Act. The Court agreed with Grafton Group that the section permitted only the quashing of this CPO not merely the decision to confirm the CPO. The reasoning of the Court will apply to all ‘legacy’ proceedings seeking to quash CPOs where the proceedings were launched before the coming into force of the now-amended section 24 (amended by section 201 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to address this very point).
The substantive merits of the challenge turned on the fact that the Secretary of State for Transport had confirmed the CPO on a basis that was never advanced by the promoting Port of London Authority, the co-joined planning appeal into the refusal of the scheme for which the CPO was being promoted having been dismissed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The CPO was therefore confirmed on a basis which the landowners had had no reason to address through evidence or submissions, when the outcome might have been different had they done so. As the Court of Appeal found:
It remains the position, as found by Ouseley J, that the CPO was unfairly and therefore unlawfully confirmed
Favourable shifts in the planning policy and general context since the CPO was first made mean that the quashing of the CPO ab initio is likely to prove to be of considerable benefit to the landowners.
Peter Village QC and James Burton acted for the landowners, Grafton Group (UK) plc and British Dredging Services Ltd, instructed by Clare Fielding of Gowling WLG (UK) LPP (formerly Lawrence Graham).
The judgment of the Court of Appeal is available on Westlaw by clicking here. (Subscription needed).