A drawn out legal battle over the tenancy status of market operators at Wallasey Market Hall has now turned into a major test case.
The row between operators Graysim Holdings, one of the country's longest established private market operating companies, and property owners P&O Property Holdings has reached the House of Lords where judgment is now pending following a recent hearing.
P&O is challenging an Appeal Court ruling early last year in which it was held that Graysim, which had occupied the market at Wallasey for a number of years, was a protected tenant.
P&O claims that because Graysim ran the market, but traders came in and occupied the stalls, Graysim was not the 'occupier' in the eyes of the law. In those circumstances it claims Graysim lost its protected tenancy status.
The case is one with wide ranging implications in the property world and particularly in respect of the many markets operated nationwide by private companies on and in property they do not own.
Lord Justice Nourse, in the Appeal ruling, said Graysim's tenancy rights were unaffected by not occupying the actual stalls. "I am of the opinion that Graysim did occupy Wallasey Market for the purposes of that business notwithstanding it did not have any degree of actual physical occupation of the stalls," he said.
Lord Justice Henry said in the same judgment: "Their occupation was manifested by their presence at and control over the market, including the physical structures and services they provided. The market manager's success in finding suitable tenants for the stalls would both intensify the business they carried on there, while in no real sense reducing their occupation."