Compulsory Purchase of Historic Amusement Park Upheld

A recent case has shown the Court’s inclination to deal robustly with technical objections which might frustrate the statutory regeneration objectives of compulsory purchase legislation where the outcome would have been the same even if the flaws had been avoided.

In Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company Ltd & Others v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government & Others [2013] EWCA Civ 1178 the Court of Appeal upheld a district council’s compulsory purchase of the site of a famous amusement park.

The Dreamland site in Margate had shut in 2002 and the site had been unused since 2006. Thanet District Council served a compulsory purchase order for it in June 2011.

The Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, who owned it, challenged the CPO.

After an inquiry the Secretary of State approved the purchase in August 2012.

The High Court, also found in favour of the local authority.

Two grounds were put before the Court of Appeal:

1. The scheme adopted by the council to redevelop – in partnership with The Dreamland Trust – was not operationally viable and that the business plan was fundamentally flawed.

2. Regeneration could have been achieved without a CPO.

Dismissing the first ground, Lord Justice Elias said: “Given in particular the strong commitment which the council had shown to implement the scheme, the inspector’s assessment that the business plan was prudent and cautious, and the willingness of third parties to support the scheme by giving substantial sums of money, the inspector’s conclusion that the particular scheme was operationally viable was plainly sustainable.”

On the second ground, the inspector’s report to the Secretary of State did contain a key sentence about the claimants’ negotiating stance on sales of parts of the site but the Court said it was insignificant.

Even if it had been a significant mis-statement of the objectors’ position, and the Secretary of State had been given a corrected version of their position, he would have still approved the scheme.

“The need for regeneration for the economic and social benefit of Margate was overwhelming: there were two schemes in play, only one of which was, in the inspector’s view, satisfactory,”

“The proposed development required the whole site; and the CPO was necessary to secure the relevant land because the appellants were not willing to transfer it voluntarily. The offer to sell the areas 1-4 was insufficient to achieve the council’s objective.”

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