Sydney Mitchell is recognised in the Top Tier of the Legal 500 and ‘punches above its weight’ for contentious and non-contentious matters. The firm is recognised for thoroughness and good commercial approach to cases.

Sydney Mitchell has again been recognised as a Tier 1 firm for its Contentious Wills and Probate work; handling a variety of high-value complex cases.

In total the firm has obtained recommendations in 13 areas of legal practice; Contentious Probate, Commercial Litigation, Debt Recovery, Insolvency and Corporate Recovery, Employment, Clinical Negligence, Personal Injury, Professional Negligence, Family, Personal Tax, Trusts and Probate, Health, Commercial Property and Property Litigation.

The firm’s clients have made some excellent comments on the work undertaken by the legal teams.

Div Singh, Senior Partner, Sydney Mitchell commented:

We have an excellent result again this year with the firm maintaining its ranking in Tier 1 for our Contentious Probate work.

We were especially pleased for some of our young solicitors Hayley–Jo Lockley and Preena Lal who have been recognised for their hard work and dedication. Our clients and referrers have made fantastic comments on the work we have undertaken including…

‘One of the strongest of the smaller city centre firms in commercial litigation’;  ‘experienced and sensible with sound judgement and a particular skill at negotiating very good deals…; ‘superstar and a joy to work with’; ‘very tenacious …’ ‘attention to detail and thorough approach’.

What more can you ask for than recommendations from your clients for the excellent service received for work undertaken by our legal teams.

The joint heads of the Dispute Resolution team, Dean Parnell and Kamal Majevadia were recognised for their high-value and complex claims undertaken with Dean recognised for his “technical knowledge that is second to none and is a solicitor you would want on your side’ and Kamal ‘… is very thorough and applies a good commercial approach to his cases’.

Leading Midlands Law firm Sydney Mitchell is ranked in 13 Legal 500 categories and has won Birmingham Law Firm of the Year 4 times in the last 9 years.

A full breakdown of the Sydney Mitchell recommendations and comments on Legal 500 are shown below.

West Midlands: Dispute resolution

Commercial litigation: Birmingham

Commercial litigation: Birmingham - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP is ‘one of the strongest of the smaller city centre firms in commercial litigation’, and thrives under the leadership of Dean Parnell, who is ‘very experienced and sensible, with sound judgement and a particular skill at negotiating very good deals for his clients’. Parnell is an experienced mediator and is also qualified to act as a supervising solicitor for search orders. The practice represented clients in a number of multimillion-pound claims and noted an increase in injunctive relief, SWAP claims, shareholder disputes and civil fraud. Kamal Majevadia, who co-heads the team with Parnell, has ‘good technical knowledge and is particularly good at insolvency, restructuring and financial professional negligence cases’.

Debt recovery

Debt recovery - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s ‘very efficient’ team has a ‘light touch’ and is led by Kamal Majevadia, who is ‘adept at spotting the wood for the trees and combines this with a user-friendly sense of humour for very experienced officeholders such as liquidators, who are his staple clients’. Majevadia’s recent caseload includes acting on behalf of the administrators of Blakemores in relation to the collection of several large debts from former clients. Another name to note is insolvency specialist Leanne Schneider-Rose, who leads on debt recovery matters for business lenders such as AIB Group (UK) and West Bromwich Commercial. The practice also acts for secondary lenders on mortgage repossessions.

West Midlands: Finance

Insolvency and corporate recovery

Insolvency and corporate recovery - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s practice offers ‘exceptional value for money’ and is also noted for its ability to ‘quickly grasp the instruction and work with the officeholder to implement (and refine as necessary) the strategy’. Practice head Leanne Schneider-Rose has a loyal following of lenders and insolvency practitioners, such as AIB Group and Smith & Williamson, and wins praise for her ‘attention to detail and thorough approach’. In one example, Schneider-Rose acted for a bankrupt in the Court of Appeal in a claim against receivers for breach of duty regarding a property owned by the bankrupt.

West Midlands: Human resources

Employment

Employment - ranked: tier 5

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s diverse practice ‘punches above its weight’. The practice acts for employers and individuals in contentious and non-contentious matters, and Birmingham-based team head Dean Parnell attracts praise for his ability to ‘focus on solutions rather than conflict for the sake of it’. He represented an individual in a complex disability discrimination and victimisation claim against their employer, as well as a shareholder who was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct following a health and safety audit. Jade Linton is ‘a superstar and a joy to work with’; she acted for an individual in sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010, which was complicated by the fact the claimant and respondent had previously been in a relationship. She also handled a whistleblowing claim brought by a high-ranked executive whose employment was terminated due to suspicions of fraudulent activity. Associate Tina Chander left the firm to join Wright Hassall LLP.

West Midlands: Insurance

Clinical negligence: claimant

Clinical negligence: claimant - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP is ‘a small firm that really punches above its weight’, and clients rate it for ‘having the skills and knowledge to handle a vast array of negligence and personal injury matters’. Mike Sutton leads the clinical negligence practice; he ‘has an excellent manner with clients’ and his experience ‘allows him to focus on the key issues in the early stages of a case’. Sutton is representing the wife of a man who died of a pulmonary embolism following the hospital’s alleged failure to appropriately treat him during the post-operative recovery period. Stephen Jesson acted for a claimant seeking compensation in light of the alleged delay in diagnosis of cancer, and is acting in a group claim filed against a consultant urological surgeon for alleged improper treatment of prostate cancer.

Next generation lawyers

Stephen Jesson - Sydney Mitchell LLP

Personal injury: claimant

Personal injury: claimant - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP acts for local clients on a wide range of personal injury work – much of which consists of multi-track claims – and ‘has a strong reputation in the West Midlands’. Team leader and ‘very tenacious lawyer’ Mike Sutton ‘does not shy away from difficult, complicated or messy cases’; he recently represented a man who suffered career-ending injuries following an accident at work, and acted on behalf of the family and financial dependents of a man killed by careless driving. Other key names include Stephen Jesson, who assisted an elderly client in her claim against a restaurant which allegedly failed to provide the duty owed by the manager to a disabled customer.

Professional negligence

Professional negligence - ranked: tier 4

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP handles high-value and complex claims regarding property and banking issues for clients such as Hertford Solutions and West Bromwich Building Society. The ‘commercially astuteDean Parnell has ‘technical knowledge that is second to none and is a solicitor you would want on your side’. He leads the practice with Kamal Majevadia, who is singled out for insolvency, restructuring and financial cases. Assistant solicitor Sundeep Bilkhu supports the partners with regards to negligence claims against solicitors and construction professionals, and recently represented a professional client in a case against his governing body for allegedly failing to adequately represent him in court resulting in significant liability costs. The ‘hardworking and responsive’ Preena Lal is also recommended.

West Midlands: Private client

Contentious trusts and probate

Contentious trusts and probate - ranked: tier 1

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s contentious trusts and probate team is based in Shirley and demonstrates ‘sound knowledge of the law, which it applies for the practical benefit of the client’. The team, led by Kamal Majevadia (who ‘is very thorough and applies a good commercial approach to his cases’) handled an Inheritance Act dispute in which a significant portion of the assets was held overseas. Solicitor Hayley-Jo Lockley supported the team in obtaining a grant of probate, forcing the removal of caveat and removing an individual from the deceased’s property, and led on the advice on the recovery of monies due to a client as per the deceased’s will. Tracy Creed is also a key contact.

Family: Birmingham
Family: Birmingham - ranked: tier 3

 

Sydney Mitchell LLP

At Sydney Mitchell LLP, Karen Moores leads the firm’s family team alongside Mauro Vinti, who works out of the Shirley office. The partners are supported by legal executive Jayne Gregg, who is ‘very positive and firm with her advice’. Recently, the team represented clients in the Birmingham family court in connection with financial remedy and child arrangement proceedings. Solicitor Teresa Mannion joined the firm in Shirley from Alsters Kelley LLP...

Personal tax, trusts and probate

Personal tax, trusts and probate - ranked: tier 2

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s clients find the wills, trusts and probate team, led by Tracy Creed, to be ‘extremely professional and efficient in all engagements and dealings’. The practice has substantial experience acting on behalf of vulnerable elderly clients in connection with care work and funding. Solicitor Ravinder Sandhu (whose ‘knowledge in this field is wide and deep’) recently assisted a client with the removal of an executor from an estate, and handled the administration of an estate according to a will, which was complicated by unclear paternity links and genealogical evidence. Clients also recommend ‘very good and helpful’ solicitor Nicholas Bennett, who is based in Shirley and acted for clients with regards to locating missing wills and applications for grants of probate.

West Midlands: Public sector

Health

Health - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmigham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s public-sector healthcare practice is headed by Fahmida Ismail in Birmingham, closely supported by consultant Tony Harris, who splits his time between Birmingham and Shirley and acted for a retiring senior partner with regards to the cancellation of his GMS contract and the negotiation of his retirement agreement. Areas of expertise include advising on sales, acquisition and mergers of GP practices, partnership disputes, and LIFT and non-LIFT projects. Harris and Ismail recently advised on the changes to partnership agreements in the context of retiring and incoming partners and the re-mortgaging of freehold surgery premises through a complex borrowing scheme requiring safeguarding and indemnity clauses to protect each individual partner. In another mandate, Ismail oversaw the retirement of a GP partner who wished to remain an owner of the leasehold premises. Associates Stewart Coles and Roy Colaba recently represented a GP partnership in connection with the lease of its surgery premises, while Dean Parnell handled a commercial dispute between dentists working in the same practice where the relationship had completely broken down but a fee-sharing agreement remained.

West Midlands: Real estate

Commercial property: Birmingham

Commercial property: Birmingham - ranked: tier 5

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s team includes the ‘knowledgeable, prompt and efficientStewart Coles, who has particular expertise in dealing with property transactions involving pension schemes, and regularly acts on behalf of SIPPs and SSASs on the purchase, sale and leasing of commercial premises. Coles also represents clients in the retail and hospitality sectors and in 2016 he advised investors on a number of hotel acquisitions. Head of practice Div Singh and finance specialist Fahmida Ismail are the other main contacts.

Property litigation

Property litigation - ranked: tier 6

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

At Sydney Mitchell LLP, senior solicitor Sundeep Bilkhu is a ‘good driving force’ for cases and continued to be particularly active in landlord and tenant issues for lenders and receivers: Bilkhu represented Hertford Solutions in enforcing a possession order against a tenant in occupation, and also acted for a receiver in obtaining vacant possession of a property following the borrower’s default of a legal charge. In other highlights, the team is defending Property Link Midlands in a claim alleging breach of a landlord repair covenant in a lease. Kamal Majevadia heads the practice.


 

21 lawyers are recommended in The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017 editorial (listed below)

WEST MIDLANDS

Dispute resolution - Commercial litigation - Birmingham
- Dean Parnell
- Kamal Majevadia

Dispute resolution - Debt recovery
- Kamal Majevadia
- Leanne Schneider-Rose

Finance - Insolvency and corporate recovery
- Leanne Schneider-Rose

Human resources - Employment
- Dean Parnell
- Jade Linton

Insurance - Clinical negligence - claimant
- Mike Sutton
- Stephen Jesson

Insurance - Personal injury - claimant
- Mike Sutton
- Stephen Jesson

Insurance - Professional negligence
- Dean Parnell
- Kamal Majevadia
- Preena Lal
- Sundeep Bilkhu

Private client - Contentious trusts and probate
- Hayley-Jo Lockley
- Kamal Majevadia
- Tracy Creed

Private client - Family - Elsewhere in the West Midlands
- Jayne Gregg
- Karen Moores
- Mauro Vinti
- Teresa Mannion

Private client - Personal tax, trusts and probate
- Nicholas Bennett
- Ravinder Sandhu
- Tracy Creed

Public sector - Health
- Dean Parnell
- Fahmida Ismail
- Roy Colaba
- Stewart Coles
- Tony Harris

Real estate - Commercial property - Birmingham
- Div Singh
- Fahmida Ismail
- Stewart Coles

Real estate - Property litigation
- Kamal Majevadia
- Sundeep Bilkhu

One of the primary purposes of insurance is to give peace of mind, but those who do not read the small print can find that the cover that they have paid for is illusory. Exactly that happened in one case in which the High Court ruled that insurers were fully entitled to refuse to pay out after a hotel was destroyed by fire.

The company that owned the hotel claimed just under £1.75 million under a policy that on the face of it protected it against the risk of fire. However, the policy included a warranty, requiring that the hotel’s electrical wiring be professionally inspected and tested at least every five years. There was no evidence that such inspection or testing had been carried out within the five years before the start of the policy or at any time prior to the fire.

In those circumstances, the insurers declined to cover the company’s loss and the company launched proceedings, claiming that they were not entitled to do so. Following a preliminary hearing, the Court found that, on a true interpretation of the policy, the warranty had the effect of suspending fire cover until such time as the required inspection and testing were carried out.

Given that the warranty had not been complied with, the cause of the fire did not matter and there was no liability on the insurers’ part. The Court’s decision did not preclude the company from seeking compensation from the brokers who had arranged the policy, although they had denied negligence or breach of contract.

For help and advice on this or contract or policy failure advice, please speak to Gemma Parker, Chartered Legal Executive on 0121 698 2200 g.parker@sydneymitchell.co.uk

If you are a director of a company that has gone into Liquidation (or might go into Liquidation) and you are now involved (or are considering becoming involved) in another company with a similar/same name then be aware of the provisions of Section 216 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Whilst it is possible to re-use the same or similar name of a liquidated company it can ONLY be re-used if one of the “exceptions” set out below applies.  If none of the “exceptions” apply then you will be in breach of section 216 of the Insolvency Act 1986 and could be liable to a fine, imprisonment, director disqualification proceedings and will be “invited” by the Investigation & Enforcement Services of the Insolvency Service to change the new company name and / or resign as a director of the new company.  All of these penalties can so easily be avoided if one of the following is undertaken or applies at the time that the “old” company goes into Liquidation; these are known as the “Excepted Cases”:

Excepted cases

  1. Where a “new company” acquires the whole or substantially the whole of the business of an insolvent company under arrangements made by an Insolvency Practitioner acting as Administrator or Liquidator or the Supervisor of a Voluntary Arrangement, the new company must serve notices (in a prescribed form) on all of the creditors of the liquidated company providing details of the old company in liquidation, the new company, and the names of the directors.  A similar Notice must also be placed in the London Gazette.  All of this must take place within 28 days from the completion of the purchase of the assets / business of the liquidated company from the Insolvency Practitioner.
     
  2. If there is no purchase of assets of the company in liquidation but you want to set up a new company and re-use the liquidated company’s name, or a similar name, then an application to the court must be made not later than 7 days from the date the company went into liquidation and leave of the court must be granted no later than 6 weeks from that date.  Even if the application is made it does not mean that the court will grant the application. The court will consider issues such as the financial standing of the new company and will want to know who will be responsible for managing it and its finances.
     
  3. The name of an existing company which is similar to the name of an insolvent company can continue to be used if:
    a) the existing company had been known by that name for the whole of the period of 12 months ending with the day before the company with a similar name went into Liquidation; and
    b) the existing company had not at any time in those 12 months been a dormant company.
    This is to cover the position where you have group companies known by similar names.  If one goes into Liquidation the others should not have to change their names.

Please note that Companies House will not, in any event, allow a “new” company to use the same name already being used by another company.  So even having regard to the above if you want to use the same name as a company that is in insolvency the Insolvency Practitioner will firstly have to deal with changing the name of the Insolvent Company.  However in many cases it is “similar” names that people want to use that give rise to claims arising under Section 216 of the Insolvency Act.

There are many cases of people not having complied with the excepted cases as set out at (1) and (2) above and they find themselves many years later on the receiving end of a letter from the Investigation & Enforcement Services of the Insolvency Service claiming that they have breached the provisions of Section 216. 

At Sydney Mitchell we can assist you in preventing such claims arising by assisting you with dealing with Notices or Applications to the Court as set out at (1) and (2) above or we can advise and assist you if you find yourself in breach and on the receiving end of a letter from the Investigation & Enforcement Services of the Insolvency Service. 

For further information please call Leanne Schneider-Roseon 0121 698 2200 or email: l.schneider-rose@sydneymitchell.co.uk

Covenants that restrict the use of land are commonly encountered in a domestic context – to maintain scenic views, rights of way and the like – but can also be used to protect business interests. In one case, a tribunal analysed a covenant that banned boat building in part of a dockyard.

The dockyard was subject to an array of leasehold and freehold interests and was shared by a company that specialised in building and repairing superyachts and other pleasure craft, and various shipbuilders whose stock-in-trade was the construction of commercial and military vessels.

As part of its expansion, the company had invested £8 million in creating a 2.3-acre sheltered basin in which vessels could be berthed as they were worked on. The basin was, however, subject to a restrictive covenant that banned boat building in the area. The covenant had been put in place to protect the shipbuilders’ interests.

The company was concerned that the covenant meant that it could not use the basin for constructing new vessels, but only for repairing or restoring old ones. The problem was pressing as it had recently signed a £10 million contract for a brand new yacht and intended to use the basin for the final stages of the project.

The company asked the Upper Tribunal (UT) to exercise its powers under the Law of Property Act 1925 to modify the covenant, but encountered stiff resistance from the shipbuilders. They were concerned that, if the company or any future occupier of the basin diversified into commercial or military shipbuilding, they would lose customers.

Ruling on the dispute, the UT had no doubt that the covenant needed to be modified to take account of changing circumstances in the dockyard. It was rewritten so as to enable the company to build or repair yachts or pleasure craft of any size in the basin. However, a restriction on the basin being used for commercial or military shipbuilding was kept in place on the basis that it secured practical benefits of substantial value to the shipbuilders.

Contact Sundeep Bilkhu, Associate Solicitor s.bilkhu@sydneymitchell.co.uk in respect of restrictive covenant help or advice.

 

Questions and Answers on pressing Insolvency and Administration matters - as published in Winter 2017 'Recovery' Magazine. Leanne Schneider-Rose, Insolvency Partner at Sydney Mitchell answers a few crucial questions.

 

Keeping inadequate records is not only a sure-fire way to end up with problems with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) but it can also lead to being disqualified from acting as a director. Often, it is a PAYE visit by HMRC that turns up issues involving the employment of illegal workers.

Such issues are particularly common in the restaurant trade, and restaurateurs are frequent targets of compliance visits.

In a single month, three directors of companies have found themselves banned for such offences.

In the first instance, a limited company which owns a restaurant was found to be employing three illegal workers and was fined £30,000. The company went into liquidation and the fine was unpaid. However, the Insolvency Service then sought and obtained a disqualification order against the company's director, which bans him from being a director of a UK company for seven years.

Another seven-year ban was served on a restaurant owner who failed to keep adequate accounting records, which led to HMRC raising assessments to VAT totalling some £129,000. The company also failed to file accounts as required by law.

In the last instance, a restaurant company went into Liquidation owing HMRC more than £400,000, leading to the disqualification of both directors for three and a half and seven years respectively. The director banned for seven years was also given a personal liability notice of more than £80,000 for deliberate suppression of the recorded takings of the company.

Says Leanne Schneider-Rose

HMRC are becoming progressively more adept at uncovering such misdeeds and, together with the Insolvency Service, prosecuting those who seriously transgress.

For help or advice on this or other related matter, please contact Leanne Schneider-Rose on 0121 698 2200

 

It is often thought that a majority shareholder has the right to do whatever they want with a company. However, this is not the case. Some decisions (such as a vote to wind up a company) require a 75% majority vote by the shareholders in order to be valid. In addition, majority shareholders have a legal duty not to exploit ('oppress') minority shareholders in the administration of the company's affairs. When they do, the minority shareholders may have the right to go to court to protect their interests. However, compensation is only payable where the minority shareholders can demonstrate that they have suffered a real financial loss.

A recent case makes the point. It involved a software company that had invested in and worked closely for some time with another, smaller company, to the extent that the latter was largely financially dependent on the former. The software company came to own a minority shareholding in the smaller company. However, following a series of disputes the two parted and the smaller company ultimately arranged alternative financial backing from a third company.

The software company launched proceedings against the smaller company and its directors under Section 994 of the Companies Act 2006 (“the Act”) on the basis that its position as a minority shareholder had been unfairly prejudiced. In particular, the software company focused on a special resolution that had been passed by which its interest in the smaller company, as minority shareholder, was diluted to 5.3%.

The end result was that the third company became owner of the overwhelming majority of the smaller company's shares. In those circumstances, the software company alleged that the directors had breached their fiduciary duty and acted without a genuine belief that the special resolution was in the best interests of shareholders as a whole.

The court found that the directors of the smaller company had breached their duty under Section 171 of the Act in failing to give the software company proper notice of the meeting at which the special resolution was passed. They had been intent on the improper purpose of keeping the software company in the dark until after the special resolution became a fait accompli.

In dismissing the software company’s claim, however, the court found that it had suffered no unfair prejudice. A 76% majority of shareholders had been in favour of the special resolution and it would have passed even had the software company been notified as it should have been. The smaller company had made historic losses and, had it not raised funds from the third company, it would not have survived.

The software company’s minority shareholding thus had no value as at the date of the special resolution. Since it had suffered no loss, the software company had no claim.

For information on this article or other related matters please contact Preena Lal p.lal@sydneymitchell.co.uk

The insolvency of one of the companies within a contractual chain can cause major difficulties for all concerned. However, as one High Court case showed, professional drafting of agreements can provide invaluable protection against such risks.

A large contractor had employed a building and civil engineering subcontractor company to work on nine major construction projects. Their business relationship was close and inter-dependent and, when the subcontractor company fell into financial difficulties, the contractor sought to assist by making advance payments totalling £4 million. The subcontractor company nevertheless entered administration.

The advance payment (in the sum of £4million) was made under an agreement whereby the Director and Shareholder of the subcontractor company guaranteed repayment of the advance. The contractor commenced proceedings against the Director to enforce the guarantee, but the Director argued that the primary obligation to repay the money rested on the subcontractor company and that he only had a secondary obligation to repay the money.

In rejecting that argument, the Court found that, on a true reading of the agreement, the guarantee took effect as an irrevocable and unconditional indemnity. The Director had taken on a primary obligation to repay the entire sum and became liable to do so immediately when the subcontractor company became insolvent. Summary judgment was entered against the Director.

For help and advice in respect of Guarantees please contact Leanne Schneider-Rose on 0121 698 2200

Informal oral contracts remain sadly commonplace despite any number of examples of them leading to costly disputes. In one case, a construction company that allowed another to use its name in tendering for jobs ended up losing almost £7 million.

One of the company's senior employees was an acquaintance of the founder of a start-up business. On the company's behalf, he orally agreed that it would take a 30 per cent stake in the business for £3,000 and would advance the latter a 10-year, interest-free loan of £147,000. It was also agreed that, at least initially, the fledgling business would be permitted to enter into contracts in the company's name.

One such project involved the business constructing industrial/warehouse units, some of which later suffered from subsidence. The company, in whose name the design and build contract had been entered into, eventually had to settle claims brought by owners of the affected units for £6,975,000.

With a view to recovering its loss, the company launched proceedings against the business, which had since prospered mightily, employing 620 staff and having a turnover of £480 million. The company argued that, as part of the oral agreement, the business had agreed to indemnify it against any losses that might arise from construction projects that were carried out in its name.

The absence of a written contract meant that the High Court was constrained to rely on other documentary and oral evidence as to what had been in the parties' minds when the agreement was reached in 2001. In dismissing the company's claim, the Court ruled that it had not been established on the balance of probabilities that the business had agreed to provide an indemnity.

Getting legal agreements properly formulated from the outset is always sound advice. Failing to do so has proved to be expensive on countless occasions.

If you would like help or advice on this or other related contract matters, please contact Kam Majevadia k.majevadia@sydneymitchell.co.uk or a member of our dispute resolution team.

Planning laws are there to be obeyed and local authorities, with judicial backing, are not afraid of enforcing them. In one case, the High Court opened the way for a family home that had been built without planning consent to be levelled to the ground.

The couple who built the house had been served with an enforcement notice by the local planning authority, requiring its demolition. Their appeal against the notice, and an attempt to win retrospective planning permission, were both later rejected by government planning inspectors on the basis that the house was harmful to the character and appearance of the rural area.

The council ultimately resolved to take direct action under Section 178(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and to send in its own workmen to carry out the demolition work. In dismissing the couple’s judicial review challenge to that decision, the Court could find no fault in the council’s approach.

The couple had been afforded every opportunity to persuade the council to stay its hand and had been warned in the clearest possible terms of its intention to take direct action. Despite having been given very clear deadlines, extended several times, the couple had chosen not to demolish the house themselves.

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