Litigation Recent Decisions 12/12/95

Compulsory acquisition of land by authority

R v Northumbrian Water, ex parte Able UK (1995).

QBD (Carnwath J) 1/12/95.

Summary: Water company held entitled to withdraw its notice to treat notwithstanding having taken possession of the land which it sought to acquire. Position concerning the advance payment made to the landowner.

In 1991 the respondent sewerage undertaker (the water company) in the Hartlepool area made a compulsory purchase order for nine hectares of land to the south of Seaton Carew for the construction of a sewage treatment works. The applicant owned most of the site. On 14/8/92 the water company served a notice to treat followed by a notice of entry on 18/8/92 and took possession of most of the site in September, taking possession of the remainder of the site on 4/1/93. The applicant continued to use the land for its business of waste disposal. On 26/9/94 the applicant submitted a claim in answer to the notice to treat for an amount of more than £22 million. Within six weeks of the claim the water company gave notice purporting to withdraw the notice to treat pursuant to s.31 (1) Land Compensation Act 1991. It requested the applicant to return its advance payment. The only reason given by the water company for withdrawal was that it was not in its interest or its customers' interest to take on the risk of having to pay the amount claimed by the applicant to achieve the purposes for which the sewerage treatment works would be constructed. On the applicant's application for judicial review of this decision.