Westminster Bank Ltd v Beverley Borough Council

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Reid,Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest,Lord Guest,Viscount Dilhorne,Lord Pearson
Judgment Date25 February 1970
Judgment citation (vLex)[1970] UKHL J0225-2
Date25 February 1970
CourtHouse of Lords
Westminster Bank Limited
and
Minister of Housing and Local Government

[1970] UKHL J0225-2

Lord Reid

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

Lord Guest

Viscount Dilhorne

Lord Pearson

House of Lords

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Westminster Bank Limited against Minister of Housing and Local Government, that the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Wednesday the 26th and Thursday the 27th, days of November last, as on Monday the 1st, Tuesday the 2d, Wednesday the 3d, Thursday the 4th, Monday the 8th and Tuesday the 9th, days of December last, upon the Petition and Appeal of Westminster Bank Limited, whose registered office is at 41 Lothbury, London, E.C.2, 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 30th of May 1968, 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 the Minister of Housing and Local Government, 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 30th day of May 1968, 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 Respondent the Costs incurred by him in respect of the said Appeal, the amount thereof to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Lord Reid

My Lords,

1

The Appellants have a branch of their bank on a site between Saturday Market and Lairgate, Beverley. The site has frontages of some 30 feet and a depth of 90 feet. They wished to increase their accommodation by some alterations of the existing building and by building a new strong room on that part of the site on Lairgate which is at present an open space. They applied for planning permission in 1964. This was refused with regard to the new strong room "on the grounds that the proposed development might prejudice the possible future widening of Lairgate".

2

The Bank appealed and a public local enquiry was held. The Respondent's inspector reported on 22nd April, 1965 recommending that the appeal should be allowed. The report narrated the contention of the Bank that the machinery of the Highway Act, 1959, section 72 should have been but had not been invoked, and the contention of the local planning authority—

"The fact that the improvement line has not been prescribed under section 72 of the Highways Act is irrelevant. The authority has the duty and the power to safeguard future provisions of a development scheme by refusing permissions which might have the effect of placing new and substantial burdens on the public purse. There are no plans in hand for the implementation of the road widening proposal."

3

Then the inspector found that for about twenty years the authority had, through planning control, protected a scheme for the widening of Lairgate, but that there were no plans in hand for the early implementation of this scheme. The inspector's conclusion was:

"Since an examination of the central area scheme has not been possible, the evidence of the need to widen Lairgate is not conclusive, and in view of the uncertainties, it would be inequitable to refuse the permission for the ordinary extension of the premises as proposed."

4

The Minister, the Respondent, held up his decision until 10th March, 1966. Then a letter was sent saying that he was "disposed, in the light of fresh expert evidence, to disagree with the recommendation of his inspector". The letter stated that he had been advised by the Minister of Transport that—

"The future widening of Lairgate is a firm proposal which is part of a long-term road improvement scheme essential for the relief of traffic congestion in Beverley. The appeal site will definitely be required for the widening of Lairgate and whilst there are no plans for the immediate implementation of this proposal it is essential that it should not be prejudiced by the development of land which will be needed for the road widening."

5

This letter then enquired whether the Bank wished the enquiry to be reopened and stated that the scope of the farther enquiry would be limited to an examination of the new evidence and any evidence which might be put forward to rebut it.

6

During the period when the Minister's decision was held up there was much activity by the planning authorities. I quote from a statement by the Ministry of Transport dated 24th October, 1966:

"The future road pattern in Beverley has been the subject of much correspondence and discussion at a number of meetings attended by representatives of the East Riding County Council, the Beverley Borough Council, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Transport. In January of this year the Local Planning Authority completed preparation of a diagrammatic plan No. TM4: 282 indicating re-development and road proposals for Beverley.

These proposals were, in the main, agreed by all parties though there had been some divergence of opinion about a suggested scheme for the construction of a circulatory system at the North Bar, but this does not affect the proposal to widen Lairgate where the layout was given general support.

At the same time a copy of the plan was put on exhibition in the Public Library to indicate to the General Public the lines which the future layout would be likely to take, and with a view to giving interested parties the opportunity to study the proposals and to offer any objection or suggestions or amendment they felt should be considered."

7

This statement narrated a proposal to construct a trunk road by-pass of Beverley and continued

"… we cannot yet say how much traffic it would take out of Beverley. At the worst and having in mind the general annual increase, it may be no more than 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. of the present flow. Even if it should, as we would hope, prove possible to remove much more than this, it seems certain that the future traffic flows in the town area will, in say 15 years' time be greater than they are at present and this seems to indicate that it would be prudent to maintain controls which would facilitate opportunities for widening schemes on Lairgate. It is therefore essential that no development should be permitted which would prejudice the widening of the road. …"

8

For some reason not stated a different inspector was appointed to conduct the reopened enquiry. He made his report on 23rd November, 1966. From his narrative of the evidence given for the Ministry of Transport I quote one passage:

"There is now a firm proposal to widen Lairgate on the eastern side, which will affect the appeal premises. Whilst there are no plans to carry out this improvement in the near future it is essential that it should not be prejudiced by the development or redevelopment of land which will ultimately be required for the widening."

9

The inspector's final conclusion was:

"It seems possible that, following the realisation of other road proposals in the central area, the increased use of Lairgate would then make it essential for the widening to be carried out within the foreseeable future."

10

This second inspector rightly made no recommendation because, as he says, the reopened enquiry and his report related only to one aspect of the matters considered at the previous enquiry.

11

Then on 31st January, 1967, the Respondent Minister issued his decision letter which concluded—

"It is considered that the evidence given at the reopened inquiry by the representatives of the Ministry of Transport and the local planning authority made it clear that, as a result of proposals for the town centre generally, Lairgate would become a main internal traffic road and would require to be widened. On the information at present available, it appears to the Minister that the authority's policy for the town centre is a reasonable one. Though no date can be given for the road-widening, it is accepted that it is a proposal which the county council have officially approved, as both the highway and planning authority, and that the proposal is a firm one. There seems to be no doubt that the appeal site will eventually be required for road widening, and it is considered that it would not be right to prejudice the local planning authority's scheme by permitting further development in front of their improvement line. The Minister is therefore unable to accept Mr. Deans' recommendation that the appeal should be allowed."

12

I am inclined to think that the Minister is here going beyond the findings of the inspector for I do not find there ground for saying that there is no doubt that the appeal site will be eventually required for road widening. But apparently there is in the Rules governing this matter a curious distinction. Where an inspector makes a recommendation the Minister cannot alter his findings without giving to the appellant an opportunity to be heard. But, for some reason which counsel could not explain, the Minister can, without hearing the appellant, make new findings and even receive fresh evidence if the inspector has made no recommendation—even in a case such as the present where it would not have been proper for the inspector to make any recommendation. If this is so then the point will no doubt be examined when the Rules come to be revised. But here on any view we must accept the Minister's view of the...

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