Pennine Raceway Ltd v Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council

CourtCourt of Appeal
Docket Number82/0235
Judgment Date28 May 1982
JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Neutral Citation[1982] EWCA Civ J0528-6

[1982] EWCA Civ J0528-6





Royal Courts of Justice


Lord Justice Stephenson

Lord Justice Eveleigh


Lord Justice Kerr


Ref: 45/1980

Pennine Raceway Limited
Claimants (Appellants)
Kirklees Metropolitan Council
Respondent (Respondent)

MR. JOHN COLYER Q.C. and MR. MICHAEL BROOKE (instructed by Messrs. Ward Bowie, Solicitors, London WC2B 4JF, agents for Messrs. Booth & Co., Solicitors, Leeds LS1 1HQ) appeared on behalf of the Claimants (Appellants).

MR. ALAN FLETCHER (instructed by The Director of Administration, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, Huddersfield, HD1 2TG) appeared on behalf of the Respondent (Respondent).


I have asked Lord Justice Eveleigh to give the first judgment.


On 2nd October 1974 a Mr. Witham, the owner of Crosland Moor Airfield, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and the appellant company, executed a deed which read as follows:


"whereas it is agreed as follows:—

1. The Owner hereby grants to the Company sole rights to promote motor and motor cycle events on the Airfield at Crosland Moor.

"2. The Company shall carry out all works fixtures and fittings necessary for the safe-guard of the public at the Airfield at the Company's own expense and shall be fully responsible for all payments as to future maintenance of such fixtures and fittings or the removal reinstatement or addition to the same.

"3. The Company covenants with the Owner to insure with an Insurance Company to be approved by the Owner against any claim against the Owner in any way relating to public liability or otherwise in connection with the events.

"4. The consideration to be paid to the Owner shall be the sum of Five hundred pounds per meeting except for the first full year which shall be treated as a trial year and during this year the Owner shall be entitled to receive Thirty per cent of the net profits of each event from the Company.

"5. Upon ceasing to hold Meetings as detailed above, the Company hereby covenants to return the Airfield to its previous condition and remove all fixtures and fittings barriers or otherwise at the Company's expense. This work shall be carried out to the satisfaction of the Owner and if dispute shall arise shall be referred to a single arbitrator to be appointed by the Surveyor for the Owner whose decision shall be final and binding to all parties.

"6. The said sum of Five hundred pounds per meeting shall be reviewed every five years but shall never be less than the said sum of Five hundred pounds".


The appellants thereafter erected about 400 yards of substantial safety barriers which were set in the ground. They cleared an area of land for pits and for a competitors' car park and laid a tarmacadam surface for these places. They moved 3,000 cubic metres of soil and created a bank for spectators. They attached nylon cable to existing posts in order to provide fencing.


At that time Article 3 of the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1973 and Class IV paragraph 2 of the First Schedule thereto permitted use for:

"any purpose or purposes except as a caravan site on not more than 28 days in total in any calendar year (of which not more than 14 days in total may he devoted to use for the purpose of motor car or motor-cycle racing or for the purpose of the holding of markets), and the erection or placing of moveable structures on the land for the purposes of that use: Provided that for the purpose of the limitation imposed on the number of days on which land may be used for motor car or motor cycle racing, account shall be taken only of those days on which races are held or practising takes place".


Although two trial races had taken place before the execution of the deed, no further events had been held before the 8th November 1974 when the respondents made a direction under Article 4 of the Development Order that the use of the airfield for motor car or motor-cycle racing should no longer be permitted.


Section 165 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 provides that in such circumstances the provisions of section 164 of the Act shall apply.


Section 164, so far as is material, reads:

"(1) Where planning permission is revoked or modified by an order under section 45 of this Act, (other than an order which takes effect by virtue of section 46 of this Act and without being confirmed by the Secretary of State) then if, on a claim made to the local planning authority within the time and in the manner prescribed by regulations under this Act, it is shown that a person interested in the land—

(a) has incurred expenditure in carrying out work which is rendered abortive by the revocation or modification…

The local planning authority shall pay to that person compensation in respect of that expenditure, loss or damage".


The respondents, the local planning authority, denied liability to pay compensation on the grounds that the appellants were not "a person interested in the land". The appellants applied to the Lands Tribunal for determination of a preliminary point of law, namely whether they were entitled to make a claim for compensation. The Lands Tribunal held that they were not "a person interested in the land" and the sole question raised in the Stated Case is whether that decision was correct.


For the respondents it is argued as follows. The phrase "a person interested in the land" is shorthand for "a person having an interest in the land". The appellants had only a licence. A licence is not an interest in land. Wood v. Leadbitter, (1843) 13 C.W. 838 and Hill v. Tupper (1863) 2 Hurlstone & Coltman, 121 were relied upon.


We were referred to section 18 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 and section 39(1) of the Land Compensation Act 1961 and sections 5 and 10 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965, in support of the submission that for a person to be interested in land it is necessary to show that that person has a proprietary interest in the land. Counsel submitted that such an interest must be one of the interests in land referred to in the Law of Property Act 1925, or at least it must have the character of a proprietary interest. The appellant's interest was only a contractual one. In other words, counsel submits that the phrase has a technical meaning.


In Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 12th Edition, page 28, we read:

"The first and most elementary rule of construction is that it is to be assumed that the words and phrases of technical legislation are used in their technical meaning if they have acquired one, and otherwise in their ordinary meaning…".


It has, however, not been possible to refer us to a line of authority to show that the phrase "a person interested in the land" has acquired a technical meaning. The phrase "a person interested in" is employed quite frequently in legislation in a wide variety of contexts. For example, The Public Health Act 1875 Clause 64, Schedule 5; The Metalliferous Mines Regulations Act 1872, section 313; the Administration and Probate Act (1958) (Vic.) section 15; the Marine Insurance Act 1906, section 5 and the Law of Property Act 1925, section 84.


As Lord Justice Devlin said in Bearmans Ltd. v. Metropolitan Police District Receiver (1961) 1 Weekly Law Reports, 634, at page 655:

"The word 'interested' is not a word which has any well defined meaning, and anybody who was asked what it meant would at once want to know the context in which it was used before he could venture an opinion…Just as in ordinary speech one would require to know the context, so in construing the word in an Act of Parliament it is essential…to look at the scope and purpose of the Act…".


In my opinion before turning to other statutes and other cases we should look at the words of the section itself. We should construe them, if their meaning is not plain, in accordance with the policy and objects of the statute with which we are concerned and only then if we are uncertain whether they apply to the facts of our particular case should we seek help elsewhere. In Barrell v. Fordree, (1932) Appeal Cases, 676, Lord Warrington said at page 682:

"The safer and more correct course of dealing with a question of construction is take the words themselves and arrive if possible at their meaning without, in the first instance, a reference to cases".


He might have added "without reference to other statutes".


I appreciate that light may be thrown on the meaning of a phrase in a statute by reference to a specific phrase in an earlier statute dealing with the same subject matter, and such an aid to construction is permissible where there is an ambiguity. Even so we are unlikely to find much help unless the statute is in pari materia.


In Grieves v. Tofield, (1880) 14 Chancery Division, 563, at page 571, Lord Justice James said:

"If an Act of Parliament uses the same language which was used in a former Act of Parliament referring to the same subject, and passed with the same purpose, and for the same object, the safe and well known rule of construction is to assume that the legislature when using well known words upon which there have been well known decisions use those words in the sense which the decisions have attached to them".


The circumstances there referred to do not exist in our case. We are dealing with a phrase which has not acquired a technical meaning and moreover is one of widely different capabilities, so that previous legislation or judicial decisions are of little help when the statutes, although dealing with compensation are not dealing...

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