Re Stalybridge and Compulsory Purchase Order, 1963; Ashbridge Investments Ltd v Minister of Housing and Local Government

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
Judgment Date02 July 1965
Judgment citation (vLex)[1965] EWCA Civ J0702-3
Date02 July 1965

[1965] EWCA Civ J0702-3

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal


From Moostta, J. Middlesex.


The Master of the Rolls

Lord Justice Harman, and

Lord Justice Winn

Ashbridge Investments Limited
Minister of Housing and Local Government

MR. NIGEL BRIDGE (instructed by the Solicitor, Ministry of Housing and Local Government) appeared on behalf of the Appellants.

MR. JOHN DRINKWATER (instructed by Messrs. Rooks CO)& appeared on behalf of the Respondents.


In this case we are concerned with alum clearance. In particular with a terrace called Grosvenor Street, Stalybridge. Some of the houses I that terrace have been determined to he unfit for human habitation and are included in a clearance area coloured pink on the map. One or two of the houses in the terrace have been determined to be fit for human habitation and coloured grey on the map. In addition to these houses there are other buildings in the neighbourhood which are also coloured grey on the map. The local authority have made a compulsory purchase order which Includes both the pink and the grey areas. But there is a great difference between them when it comes to compensation. The unfit houses in the clearance area (the pink area) only get site value, see Davy v. Leeds Corporation, 1965 1 W. L. R. 445. But the fit houses and the other buildings (all in the grey area) get, not only the value of the site, but of the — house or building on it.


It is therefore a matter of considerable importance to determine whether any particular building is a house which is unfit, or a house which is fit, or another building. We have here an extraordinary situation. In this terrace the Ashbridge Investments Limited own two houses. They are numbered No. 17 and 19, Grosvenor Street, Staly bridge. They look very alike from the outside. They are both unfit for hu habitation: and the local authority put them both in the pink area. But the Minister, on considering the Order, has held chat No. 17 is a house and that No. 19 is not a house. So he has taken No. 19 out of the pink area and put it into the grey. The company regarded this as a very strange decision and challenge the Minister's order.


The difficulty in this case arises because the Housing Act, 1957, does not define a house except by saying that it includes any yard, garden, outhouses, and appurtenancesbelonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith. That does not help us much to say when a house is not a house. But it is apparent that a "house" in the Act means a building which is constructed or adapted for use as, or for the purposes of, a dwelling. It need not actually be dwelt in, but it must be constructed or adapted for use as a dwelling, or for the purposes of a dwelling. The owners here say it is very illogical to hold that in the self-same terrace Ho. 17 has been held to be a house and No. 19 to be not a house. In order to show the distinction I will read the Inspector's report. Now in regard to Bo. 17, the Inspector says: 'It comprises a greengrocer's shop, rear living room with tiled fireplace and gas cooker, scullery, three first floor rooms and separate external water closet. The property is not used for living purposes. No structural alterations have been made to the property which has retained its identity as a dwelling. The house is unfit by reason of serious disrepair, dampness, unsatisfactory sanitary accommodation and inadequate facilities for the storage and preparation of food. The house is not well maintained, there is disrepair to plaster work, windows, partitions, brickwork and roof." No. 17 the Minister has held to be a house not fit for human habitation. It comes in the pink land and, therefore, is only entitled to site value compensation.


Now next door is No. 19, which on the photograph looks exactly the same. The Inspector says of No. 19: "It is a two storey terrace proper comprising shop, small store room, staff room and three first floor rooms. The property is not used for living purposes. The wall which originally separated the shop from the rear ground floor living room has been removed and replaced with a steel beam at celling level. A hardboard partition now forms the rear wall of the shop. The original shop has been extended by the removal of the wall and the original living room has beenreduced in size by the erection of the partition. The property has lost its identity as a dwelling and should be excluded from the clearance area." So it seems that in regard to No. 19, because one wall has been removed and put further back, the Inspector thought it had ceased to be a house. In consequence of that report the Minister took No. 19 out of the pink area and put it into the grey area. so the owner gets adequate compensation for it. We have not to consider the correctness of the Minister's decision on that point. The local authority cannot appeal against it.


Now the owners make application to the High Court asking for the order to be quashed in regard to No. 17. They say that the Minister has gone outside his jurisdiction because No. 17 is not a house. It is no more a house than No. 13. The owners say that the Court should receive evidence afresh on this point and should come to its own conclusion as to whether or no No. 17 is a house or not.


The Minister objects. He says: "This is not a matter on which the Court should receive fresh evidence at all, or go into the matter afresh. It is simply a case for the Court to ask: Did the Minister have reasonable grounds or no for determining No. 17 to be a house?" The Minister concedes that, if he had no evidence before him such as to justify that finding, or if the materials before him were such that he could not reasonably come to the conclusion that It was a house, then, of course, the Court could interfere. The Minister also concedes that if he has erred in point of law the Court can inquire into and quash his decision. But he says that this should be determined on the materials which he bad before him, and not on fresh evidence. Mr. Justice Mocatta has held that the Court can look into the matter afresh and receive fresh evidence.


Section 42 of the Housing Act, 1957, says: "Where a local authority upon consideration of an official representation or other Information in their possession, are satisfied as respects any area in their district and (a) that the houses in that area are unfit for human habitation… the authority shall cause that area to be defined on a map", and so on. It is apparent that the question "fit or unfit?" la essentially one for the Inspector and the Minister, and the Courts would not ordinarily admit fresh evidence on it. But the owners say that, on the question of "house or not a house", the Court can and should look into the whole matter itself afresh.


In order to decide this question, it is helpful to look at the Third Schedule, paragraph 4(3). It says that "if the Minister is of opinion that any land Included by the local authority in a clearance area should not have been so Included, he shall… modify it so as to exclude that land for all purposes from the clearance area." It is clear, therefore, that the Minister can move the land from the pink into the grey if he thinks that It should not have been originally included in the pink area. It seems to me that, in order to determine this matter, the Minister must himself decide the question of "house or not a house", just as he must decide "fit or unfit". The...

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