Many proposals for major infrastructure projects never get off the drawing board, but their mere existence is often enough to seriously harm private property values. As one case showed, however, victims of such blight are far from powerless.
The case concerned proposals to construct a £79 million bypass. A couple whose bungalow stood on the road’s proposed route served a blight notice under Section 150 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by which they sought to require the local authority to purchase the property’s freehold.
In objecting to the notice, the council argued, amongst other things, that the road-building plans had only reached a conceptual stage and did not form part of the local development plan. The extent and position of the bypass was subject to change and, although a budget for the project had been announced, a decision had yet to be taken as to whether it would be delivered by the council or Highways England.
Ruling in the couple’s favour, the Upper Tribunal (UT) noted that the proposed road was a critical piece of infrastructure which was key to the delivery of the council’s planning objectives. References to it were made in at least three development plan documents which would be open to inspection by prospective purchasers of the couple’s home. The documents consistently showed the road cutting through their land.
Arguments that plans for the bypass were at a very early stage did not address the couple’s concern that the road’s inclusion in development plan documents blighted the value of their property. The fact that funding for the road had yet to be finalised, and that the identity of the body that would deliver the project remained uncertain, was irrelevant to the question of blight.
The UT declared that the whole or part of the couple’s property was comprised of blighted land within the meaning of Paragraph 1A of Schedule 13 of the Act and that the council’s objection to the notice under Section 151(4)(a) of the Act was not well founded. Directions were given for a further hearing at which other grounds of objection put forward by the council would be considered.
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