Mr Justice Dove has today handed down judgment in R (Whitstable Society) v Canterbury City Council  EWHC 254 (Admin). This is an important decision on the meaning of ‘open space’ in the Local Government Act 1972 and Town and Country Planning Act 1990, on the requirements for the sale of land for best consideration under the 1972 Act, and on the discretionary refusal of relief in judicial review claims. James Goudie QC and Edward Capewell successfully appeared for the Defendant Council.
The claim concerned a piece of land on the sea front in Whitstable which was sold by the Council for development in 2015. The Claimant challenged the sale on five grounds, alleging that the land was ‘public open space’, that the contract for sale had been entered into outside of the resolution granted by the Executive, that the Council had failed sufficiently to publicise the sale, that the sale had been at an undervalue and that the Public Sector Equality Duty had not been complied with. The judge rejected all of the grounds of challenge except one, holding that the sale had been at an undervalue. He went on, however, to refuse relief in the exercise of his discretion, finding that the Claimant had unreasonably delayed in bringing its challenge and that there was prejudice to good administration and the third party developer who had acted in reliance on the decision.
The judgment will be of wide interest to local authorities involved in the disposal of land and to developers.
A copy of the judgment can be found here.