Home Information Cases Site Developments (Ferndown) Ltd v Barratt Homes Ltd & Ors (2007)

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Site Developments (Ferndown) Ltd v Barratt Homes Ltd & Ors (2007)

Summary

The defendant was granted summary judgment on the claimant's application for an injunction that would require the demolition of a number of houses in a residential development and would leave the other houses land-locked. However, it could not be said that the other claims for injunctive relief had no real prospects of success, so they would proceed to trial.

Facts

The applicant (B) applied for partial reverse summary judgment, and the respondent (S) applied to amend its particulars of claim. B and S were both property developers. The claim related to two adjoining plots of land which had been developed into a housing estate by B. S claimed that it owned a small strip of land adjoining the land and controlling access to it. S also claimed that part of the strip was required for visibility splays for the access road into the development if B was to comply with its planning permission. B disputed S's claim to ownership of the strip, but, in the alternative, argued that S had dedicated it as a public highway. S sought various heads of relief, including six injunctions and possession. B's application for summary judgment sought a summary rejection of S's claims for injunctive relief and for possession on the ground that S had no real prospect of succeeding in obtaining such relief. B submitted that the grant of injunctive relief would be oppressive and that damages should be awarded in lieu if S were otherwise successful; the injunctions sought would require the demolition of 15 houses and the land-locking of the remaining 19; the strip was a "ransom strip" and its purpose was to enable S to extract money from a developer; and while S had made claims to ownership of the strip before work started, it had never threatened B with injunctions or applied for an interim injunction; instead it had asked for proposals and negotiation, which implied that what it really wanted was money. S submitted that the reasonableness of the relief sought was irrelevant, and that as a property owner it was not required to be reasonable in the exercise of its rights, save to the extent that the right in question incorporated a requirement of reasonableness. S further argued that B should have appreciated the existence of the strip from the outset, and that it had proceeded with its eyes open hoping to achieve a fait accompli.

Held

An injunction was an equitable remedy, so that even if a claimant established that his legal rights had been infringed, the court had a discretion as to whether or not to grant an injunction. It would only be in exceptional circumstances that the court would exercise its discretion to award damages in lieu of an injunction, Shelfer v City of London Electric Lighting Co (No1) (1895) 1 Ch 287 and Regan v Paul Properties Ltd (2006) EWCA Civ 1391, (2007) Ch 135 applied. While the claimant's position should be taken into consideration, the key question was whether the grant of injunctive relief would be oppressive to the defendant, which would depend on all the relevant circumstances existing at the time. The relevant circumstances included the conduct of the parties. The court would be reluctant to grant injunctions that would require houses to be demolished or would leave them land-locked, Jaggard v Sawyer (1995) 1 WLR 269 and Gafford v Graham (1999) 77 P & CR 73 applied. The test was not one of reasonableness, but of oppression. B had a strong case for damages to be granted in lieu of any injunction. S was unlikely to succeed in its claim for injunctive relief, as it appeared that to grant the injunctions would be oppressive. Nevertheless, it could not be concluded that S had no real prospect of success in its claim. B's application for summary judgment failed, apart from in relation to two of the injunctions sought. On the claim for an injunction requiring B to remove the buildings and structures on the land adjoining the strip, including a fence and an internal road, B was granted summary judgment, save in relation to the fence and road. On the claim for an injunction to enforce a covenant in relation to the fence, B was also granted summary judgment.

Chancery Division
Richard Arnold QC
Judgment date
6 March 2007
References

​LTL 9/3/2007 

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