Simon Richard Fraser & Nathan George Fraser v Canterbury Diocesan Board Of Finance & Ors (2005
There had been no reverter of the site of a school before the coming into force of the Reverter of Sites Act 1987, because until it had closed in 1995 the school had been used for the purpose of the education of poor persons within the School Sites Act 1841 s.2.
The appellants (F) appealed against the decision ((2004) EWCA Civ 15) that the ownership of the site of a Church of England primary school had reverted pursuant to the School Sites Act 1841 more than 12 years before the commencement of the Reverter of Sites Act 1987. In 1866 land in Maidstone had been conveyed to trustees under the School Sites Act 1841 to be used as a school "for the education of children and adults of the labouring manufacturing and other poorer classes in the Ecclesiastical District of Saint Philip Maidstone". Section 2 of the 1841 Act provided for the grant of land as a site for a school for the education of poor persons, or for the residence of the schoolmaster or schoolmistress, or otherwise for the education of such poor persons in religious and useful knowledge, but subject to the proviso that, if the land ceased to be used for the purposes mentioned in the Act, it would revert to the previous owners. The school had been closed in 1995 and the site sold. F claimed to be beneficiaries of the proceeds of sale under statutory trusts created by s.1 of the 1987 Act. The question whether, as the respondent trustees (T) claimed, F's title was statute barred because the reverter had occurred long before the school closed, and in any event more than 12 years before the 1987 Act had come into force, was tried as a preliminary issue. T submitted that the school had long ceased to be used for the "education of children and adults of the labouring manufacturing and other poorer classes in the Ecclesiastical District of Saint Philip Maidstone" in accordance with the trusts of the deed, because the evidence was that by 1947 it was being used as a school for any children, whatever their means or place of residence.
(1) It could not be inferred from the rather meagre evidence that the trustees of the school had an "all-comers" admissions policy and that the adoption of that policy amounted to a breach of trust. Given that both the statute and the trust deed were intended to set up arrangements capable of lasting for a very long time and that both were intended to operate through the medium of a charitable trust, a broad and practical approach had to be taken to the question of whether the school had ceased "to be used for the purposes in this Act mentioned". The relevant statutory purpose was the education of poor persons and there was no evidence inconsistent with the school having been used for that purpose until it closed. (2) The relevant purposes to be considered in relation to reverter were the statutory purposes and not the purposes specified in the grant, which could be narrower. If a grantor's stated purposes were narrower and more detailed and elaborate than the statutory purposes, non-compliance with them would not necessarily result in the cessation of the statutory purposes and consequential reverter. Reverter (after 1987, in equity) would occur only if the relevant statutory purpose was no longer being carried out, Habermehl v A-G (1996) EGCS 148 and Fraser v Canterbury Diocesan Board of Finance (2001) 2 WLR 1103 overruled; Attorney General v Shadwell (1910) 1 Ch 92 explained.