Slough Estates Ltd v Slough Borough Council (No. 2)

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Reid,Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest,Viscount Dilhorne,Lord Pearson,Lord Diplock
Judgment Date06 May 1970
Judgment citation (vLex)[1970] UKHL J0506-3
Date06 May 1970
CourtHouse of Lords
Slough Estates Limited
Slough Borough Council and Others

[1970] UKHL J0506-3

Lord Reid

Lord Morris of Borth-y Gest

Viscount Dilhorne

Lord Pearson

Lord Diplock

House of Lords

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Slough Estates Limited against Slough Borough Council and others, that the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Tuesday the 3d, as on Wednesday the 4th, Thursday the 5th, Monday the 9th, Tuesday the 10th, Wednesday the 11th and Thursday the 12th, days of March last, upon the Petition and Appeal of Slough Estates Limited, whose registered office is situate at Slough Estates House, 16 Berkeley Street, London, W.1, in Greater London, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 27th of March 1969, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; as also upon the Case of Slough Borough Council and Buckinghamshire County Council, lodged in answer to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal, of the 27th day of March 1969, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby, Affirmed, and that the said Petition and Appeal be, and the same is hereby, dismissed this House: And it is further Ordered, That the Appellants do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Respondents the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeal, such Costs to include the attendance of three Counsel in this House, the amount thereof to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Lord Reid

My Lords,


For the reasons given by my noble and learned friend, Lord Pearson, I would dismiss this appeal. But I wish to add a few observations about a question of law which is involved. The Appellants argued that in construing the planning permission with which we are concerned it is proper to have regard to all relevant facts known to the Planning Authority when the permission was given—in this case correspondence which had passed between the parties. We did look at this correspondence before deciding whether it was admissible and in my view it does not help the Appellants so it is unnecessary to reach a decision. But as the matter was argued and is of general importance I think I should state my opinion.


It is well settled that the Court in construing a will or a contract must put itself in the shoes of the testator or the parties by admitting in evidence all relevant facts known at the time by the testator or by both the parties. But in my view it does not at all follow that the same applies to a public document. It could not possibly apply to a Minister making a statutory instrument. How far can it apply to a written grant of planning permission? This is available to purchasers from the person who originally obtained the permission. He may have no means of discovering what facts were known to the planning authority. It is true that the person who originally obtained the permission would be likely to know. But the question may arise after many years. And it could hardly be that the permission could mean one thing in the hands of the original owner and something different in the hands of a purchaser from him.


There is not much authority on the matter. We were referred to two cases. In Miller Mead v. Minister of Housing [1963] 2 Q.B. 196 the permission granted was, if its words were given their ordinary meaning, wider than what had been asked for in the owner's application. But it was held not proper to use the application to cut down the ordinary meaning of the permission. On the other hand in Sussex Caravan Parks v. Richardson [1961] 1 W.L.R. 561 there are observations by Harman L.J. to the effect that in construing an entry in a valuation list it is permissible to have regard to extrinsic evidence and the Appellants relied on them. They were not essential to the decision and are not supported by the judgment of Holroyd Pearce L.J.


Of course extrinsic evidence may be required to identify a thing or place referred to, but that is a very different thing from using evidence of facts which were known to the maker of the document but which are not common knowledge to alter or qualify the apparent meaning of words or phrases used in such a document. Members of the public, entitled to rely on a public document, surely ought not to be subject to the risk of its apparent meaning being altered by the introduction of such evidence.

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

My Lords,


I have had the advantage of reading the speech of my noble and learned friend, Lord Pearson, and I agree with it. I agree also with the observations of my noble and learned friend, Lord Reid.


I would dismiss this appeal.

Viscount Dilhorne

My Lords,


I have had the advantage of reading the Opinions of my noble and learned friends, Lord Reid and Lord Pearson. I agree with them and I agree that this appeal should be dismissed.

Lord Pearson

My Lords,


The Plaintiffs and Appellants are Slough Estates Limited and I will refer to them as "the Company". They own the Slough Trading Estate, which is about 500 acres in extent. They build factories and let them out to tenants. They also provide roads, railway sidings, warehouses, electric power and other ancillary services. By 1945 they had developed in this way rather more than half of the trading estate. In 1945 they submitted a plan to the Slough Borough Council who are the first Respondents. On the 17th October 1945 the Slough Borough Council granted to the Company a purported planning permission. They used a printed form, deleting certain words and inserting certain words in typescript or manuscript. I will set out the material words of the document in full, showing the deletion and also showing (in italics) the inserted words:


(C.P./U.L.) Application No. U.L.21





"To: Slough Estates Limited

c/o W. H. L. Price, Bedford Avenue, Slough, Bucks

In pursuance of their powers under the above-mentioned Acts and Order, the Council as Interim Development Authority hereby permit the land situate at the Trading Estate at present undeveloped, and shown on the accompanying plan(s) to be used for the purpose of and shown uncoloured on the plan submitted, to be used for industrial purposes

subject to the submission by the developer and subsequent approval by the Council, or by the Minister of Town and Country Planning on appeal, of particulars of the proposed development [and to compliance with the conditions specified hereunder:—

That further particulars of the proposed development be submitted and approved in due course.

The reasons for the Council's decision to grant permission for the development, subject to compliance with the conditions hereinbefore specified:—

To ensure that development shall comply with the Planning Scheme now in course of preparation.]

Dated the seventeenth day of October, 1945

J. H. Warren

Town Clerk


The "plan submitted", to which the purported planning permission refers, is a vital document and as it cannot be exhibited to this opinion it will have to be described. It is a plan with a scale of 1/2500 showing the Trading Estate and other land as well. It does not show the boundary of the Trading Estate. Some parts are coloured and some are uncoloured. The meanings of the different colours are stated on the plan. Of the coloured parts


(1) About 240 rectangular or other shapes, stated to cover 2,647,697 square feet, are coloured pink, and this colouring means that they are "proposed new factories";


(2) There is an area coloured blue and bearing the legend "Grid station", and there is another area probably meant to be coloured blue and bearing the legend "Power Station", and the blue colour is stated to mean "Electricity Generating Station", but there is nothing to show whether the Electricity Generating Station is existing or proposed or partly existing and partly proposed;


(3) There are four rectangles coloured red and stated to be canteens, but there is nothing to show whether they are existing or proposed;


(4) There are numerous areas coloured green, and the green colour denotes "open space", and some of the green-coloured areas bear the legend "car park", and one large one bears the legend "No development";


(5) There are a number of strips coloured yellow, and the yellow colouring denotes "proposed new roads".


In addition:—


(6) Certain black lines, if continuous, mean existing soil sewers or drains, and, if broken, mean proposed soil sewers or drains;


(7) Certain other black lines, if continuous, mean existing rain water drains, and, if broken, mean proposed rain water drains;


(8) Pairs of black lines close together mean proposed new railroads.


The uncoloured areas on the plan must consist mainly, though not entirely, of developed portions of the Estate, but there is nothing to indicate which portions are developed and which undeveloped. Although the central and eastern parts of the Estate are mostly uncoloured and there are concentrations of pink-coloured shapes in the northern, western and southern parts, the uncoloured and coloured areas are not segregated from each other. There are small uncoloured areas surrounding and interspersed with the concentrated pink-coloured shapes, and there are...

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