Crabb v Arun District Council

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
JudgeTHE MASTER OF THE ROLLS,LORD JUSTICE LAWTON,LORD JUSTICE SCARMAN
Judgment Date23 Jul 1975
Judgment citation (vLex)[1975] EWCA Civ J0723-1

[1975] EWCA Civ J0723-1

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Appeal by plaintiff from judgment of the Vice Chancellor, Sir John Pennycuick, on 29th January, 1974.

Revised

Before

The Master of The Rolls (Lord Denning),

Lord Justice Lawton and

Lord Justice Scarman.

Between
Victor Crabb
Plaintiff Appellant
and
Arun District Council (formerly Chichester Rural District Council)
Defendants Respondents

Mr. PETER MILLETT, Q.C., and Mr. ANTHONY TEMPLEMAN (instructed by Messrs. Devonshire & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Appellant Plaintiff.

Mr. GAVIN LIGHTMAN (instructed by Messrs. Doyle Devonshire Box & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Defendants.

THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS
1

This case cannot be properly understood without a map: but I will try to explain it as best I can.

2

Near Bognor Regis there is a village called Pagham. There is a road there called Hook Lane running East and West, On the south side of that road there is an area of land Called Windmill Park. In 1946 a Mr. Alford bought 5h acres of it. It formed a big square field with its north side next to the road. Now you must imagine that big field divided into two parts by a line running from north to south, with two acres on the eastern side of the line and 3 acres on the western side: and the two acres divided by a line horizontally into two halves, the front portion (1 acre) being next to the road and the back portion (1 acre) with no access to the road. Mr. Alford developed the two acres and left the other 3 acres undeveloped. On these two acres Mr. Alford put two industrial buildings. On the front portion (edged green on the map) he erected offices and showrooms. On the back portion (edged red on the map) he erected a building for the manufacture of caravans. And he made a road on these two acres connecting the back portion to the front.

3

In 1962 Mr. Alford died. His executors decided to develop the remaining 3 acres on the western side of the field. They obtained planning permission to erect dwelling houses on it. Under this proposal there was to be a new estate road made to give access from Hook Lane to the new housing estate. It was to be made on the 3 acres but was to run alongside the boundary line between the 3 acres and the 2 acres. It was to be called Mill Park Road. This road was to be to the advantage also of the buildings on the 2-acre portion, because they could have access onto the near road. The proposal at that time was, however, that there should be only one access from the 2 acres on to the new road. This was to be at a point marked "A" in the frontportion (edged green), about half-way up from Hook Lane. It was thought at that time that one access would be sufficient because the whole of the two acres were in one occupation. The vehicles from the back portion (where caravans were made) could go along their own existing road to the front portion (where the offices and showrooms were), and then out at point A. This was to be the only access to the 2 acres. The previous access (from a side lane) was to be closed.

4

Planning permission was given for this development. But the executors of Mr. Alford did not carry it out themselves. They sold the two acres to a Mr. Crabb: and they sold the 3l acres to the Chichester Rural District Council. The conveyances are of importance. By a conveyance dated 1st September, 1965, the executors of Mr. Alford sold the whole of the two acres with the two industrial buildings to Mr. Crabb: and in the conveyance they agreed to erect a fence 5ft. 6ins. high along the boundary line (save for the access gap at point A). They also granted him a right of access at point A to the proposed new road and a right of way along it to Hook Lane. By a conveyance dated 8th December, 1966, the executors of Mr. Alford sold the 3 acres to the Chichester Rural District Council, but they expressly reserved the right (which they had already granted to Mr. Crabb) for the owner of the 2 acres to have access at point A to the proposed new road and a right of way along it to Hook Lane. In the same deed the Chichester Rural District Council agreed to erect the fence 5ft. 6ins. high along the boundary line (save for the access gap at point A).

5

So on the conveyances the owners and occupiers of the 2 acres had a right of access along at one point, namely, point A (half-way up the front portion). It was shown on the map as a gap about 20 feet wide; and from that point they had a right of wayalong the proposed new estate road, to get to Hook Lane. The Chichester Rural District Council were to erect a close-boarded fence 5ft. 6ins. high along the whole boundary between the two acres and the 3 acres, except for the 20 feet gap at point A.

6

In 1967 Mr. Crabb had a new idea about his two acres. He thought it would be desirable to split up the two portions and sell them separately for separate use. The front portion (with the offices and showrooms) was clearly separated from the back portion (with the manufacturing). But, if they were split up, he would need another access. The access at point A would serve the front portion. But he would need another access at another point (to be called point B) so as to serve the back portion, together with a right of way along the new estate road from point B to Hook Lane.

7

Now by this time Mr. Crabb had engaged as his architect Mr. Alford, who was the son of the original owner of the land. On 22nd June, 1967, Mr. Alford, as architect for Mr. Crabb, wrote this letter to the Engineer of the Chichester Council:-

8

"For the attention of Mr. Stonier:

9

Dear Sir….

10

It would appear that Mr. Crabb may require two entrances off the new road, one to each of his two buildings. If you could let me know when you hope to get this fence line out I would be glad of the opportunity of meeting a representative of your Department on the site so that these matters can be finally settled and the line of the fence agreed."

11

In pursuance of that letter there was a meeting on 26th July, 1967, which was attended by Mr. Crabb and his architect, Mr. Alford, and by a representative of the Council. There is no written note of what took place. Both Mr. Crabb and his architect, Mr. Alford, gave evidence about the meeting. But unfortunately the Council gave no evidence about it. The Councilundoubtedly had a representative there: but we do not know who it was. The Engineer, Mr. Stonier, said that he himself was not present. The only other person who might have represented the Council was a Mr. Queen. He was in Canada and not available to g evidence. But there is no doubt that they agreed the line of the fence which was to separate Mr. Crabb's land from the Council's land. There is also no doubt that there was an agreement in principle that Mr. Crabb should have, not only the access at point A, but also access at point B, so as to give access from the back portion of his land on to the new estate road. Mr. Crabb said that the Council's representative made a firm commitment for a second access at B: but the Judge said that Mr. Crabb was rather over sanguine. The Judge preferred the evidence of Mr. Alford who was rather more cautious. Mr. Alford said: "I thought we had got final agreement in that there was to be access at point B, but I saw further processes beyond the meeting." He foresaw, no doubt, that there might have to be a document drawn up between the solicitors. Later on, in his evidence, Mr. Alford was asked whether there was to be any payment for this additional access. He said: "The normal anticipation at that time would be that some consideration would be demanded." But the Council's representative did not ask for any payment. Mr. Alford said: "My strong feeling is we would not be asked to pay that consideration when talking to the plaintiffs in 1967."

12

Summing up the evidence, as accepted by the Judge, the result of the meeting on 22nd July, 1967, was that there was an agreement in principle that Mr. Crabb should have an additional access at point B to the land, because it was envisaged that he would sell his two acres of land in two portions: the front portion with access at point A to the new road, and the back portion, with access at point B, to the new road. But the Judge found therewas no definite assurance to that effect: and, even if there had been, it would not have been binding in the absence of either writing or consideration. In order to be binding, there would have to be the legal processes foreseen by Mr. Alford.

13

As it happened, no legal processes were gone through. The Chichester Rural District Council made no formal grant to Mr. Crabb of any access at point B or any easement over the new road. But, nevertheless, the parties acted in the belief that he had or would be granted such a right. During the winter of 1967 the Council erected a fence along the line of the agreed boundary, but they left gaps at point A with access to the front portion of Mr. Crabb's land and at point B with access to the back portion. These two gaps were used by lorries which went in and out at points A and B as if they were exits and entrances. It was creating such a mess and disturbance of Mr. Crabb's land that there was a meeting on the site on 31st January, 1968, at which the Council agreed that they would undertake a tidying-up operation: and they did so.

14

On 6th February, 1968, there was an important development. The Council gave orders for gates to be constructed at points A and B, and they were in fact constructed. We have before us the contractors account dated 30th March, 1968. The contractors erected a fence 5ft. 6ins. high all the way along the boundary: but they put gates in the fence at points A and 3. At point A they erected a pair of oak close-boarded gates 18ft. Oins. wide, 5ft. 6ins. high, complete with posts and fittings, at a cost of £117. 5s.6d. At point B they erected a similar pair 12ft. 3ins. wide and 5ft. 6ins. high,...

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    • Elder Law Review Nbr. 9, January 2015
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    ...that the party who adopts it will act or abstain from acting in reliance on the assumption or expectation [Crabb v Arun District Council [1976] Ch 179, 188;Waltons v Maher, 423 (Brennan J)]. Such knowledge or intention may easily be inferred where the adoption of the assumption or expectati......
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    ...41McFarlane, „Proprietary estoppel and failed contractual negotiations‟ [2005] 6 Conv 501-523 42Ibid n.6, Crabb v Arun District Council [1976] Ch 179 108 Vol. 1 S.S.L.R. Law of Property Act 1989 and Proprietary Estoppel Equity Supplementing the Common Law The judiciary‟s preoccupation with ......

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