The map so far:

Welcome to the London Law Map!

Many people think they are familiar with legal London - the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court, the Old Bailey etc. But the streets of London are also home to a huge amount of case law. Here is just a selection:

Monday, 31 March 2014

Hunter v Canary Wharf Ltd [1997] 2 All ER 426

What's the case about?
In the spring of 1988 construction started on One Canada Square, the distinctive tower at the centre of the Canary Wharf development.  Within a few months of work starting, people living to the northeast of the site began to complain of interference with their television signal.  A group of 690 people brought an action in private nuisance against the developers and sought to recover damages from them.
Where is it on the map?
At point M.

Who won?
The developers.  

The House of Lords rejected the idea that causing interference to a person's television reception was capable of being an actionable nuisance.  They also reversed the Court of Appeal's ruling that people who did not have a 'proprietary interest in land' could bring an action in private nuisance.

What's the principle of law?
Private nuisance is usually caused by something 'emanating' from a person's land.  A classic example of this is where emissions emanating from a factory cause nuisance at a neighbouring property (see Tipping v St Helens Smelting Co. (1865) L.R. 1 Ch.App. 66).  In the present case, there was nothing emanating from the tower: it was simply in the way of the television signals.  The Law Lords ruled that it would be wrong to hold that Canary Wharf Ltd had created a nuisance simply by building on their own land. 

The second important principle to be found in the House of Lords' judgment is that a person can only bring a claim in private nuisance if they have 'a proprietary interest' in the land that is suffering the alleged nuisance.  This usually means that the claimant must own the land.  In the present case, not all the claimants had proprietary interests in the land that they claimed had suffered a nuisance.  Some were partners or relatives - or even lodgers - of the people with the proprietary interest in the land.  

The Court of Appeal had held that it was sufficient for a claimant to have a 'substantial interest' in land (a broader definition).  But the House of Lords (Lord Cooke dissenting) held that this was incorrect: private nuisance is a tort committed against land.  Therefore, if you have no land, you cannot suffer a tort to your land and you cannot bring a claim in private nuisance.

What's it like today?
The tower at One Canada Square was the tallest building in Britain from 1990 to 2010.  However, the reason it had interfered with local people's television reception was not thought to be its height so much as its shiny stainless steel cladding.  Today, the tallest building in Britain is the (equally shiny) Shard.

In 1989 the residents had been receiving their television signal via a transmitter at Crystal Palace.  In April 1991, the BBC installed a transmitter at Poplar.  This corrected the problem with the local reception.  Today, the analogue transmitters have been switched off and Londoners receive a digital signal.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

R v Secretary of State for the Environment, ex parte Rose Theatre Trust Co [1990] 1 All ER 754

What's the case about?
In 1989, developers were given permission to redevelop an office block adjacent to Southwark Bridge.  Before the foundations of the new building had been laid, a team of archaelogists uncovered the remains of the Rose Theatre, Bankside's first theatre.  The Rose was built in 1587 and staged productions by Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

The developers were planning to build over the site in a matter of weeks but a group of interested archaeologists and actors argued that it should be preserved for the nation.  They formed a company, the Rose Theatre Trust, in order to campaign for the site's preservation.  The Rose Theatre Trust applied to the Secretary of State for the Environment for the site to be scheduled as an ancient monument, which would have made interfering with the remains (and presumably continuing with the development) a criminal offence.  The application was refused.  The Rose Theatre Trust applied to the High Court for a judicial review, arguing that the Secretary of State's decision was unlawful and should be quashed.

Where is it on the map?
At point Y.

Who won?
The Secretary of State won: the judge found that he had not acted unlawfully.  

Even worse for the Rose Theatre Trust, the judge found that they did not have a sufficient interest in the site to allow them to bring a claim anyway.  So even if the Secretary of State had acted unlawfully, the judge would not have quashed the decision on the application of the Rose Theatre Trust.

What's the principle of law?
A judicial review is an application to a court to overturn a public decision of an official body.  Only applicants who have a sufficient interest (sometimes referred to as 'standing' or 'locus standi') in the decision are able to apply for judicial review.  The judge held that the Rose Theatre campaigners, as individuals, did not have a sufficient interest in the decision - and that they could not gain a sufficient interest simply by banding together to form a pressure group or even a company like the Rose Theatre Trust.  

The judge based his reasoning on the judgment of the House of Lords in the Fleet Street casuals case (IRC v National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses Ltd [1982] AC 617), where a group of self employed people (the National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses) failed to secure a judicial review of way the Inland Revenue had handled the tax affairs of another group of self employed people (the Fleet Street casuals).

What's it like today?
The public outcry over the Rose Theatre is often cited as the reason why, in November 1990, the government published new guidance as to when sites of national interest should be designated as scheduled monuments.  The Rose Theatre was finally listed as a scheduled monument in February 1992.

One of the reasons that the Secretary of State gave for refusing the application to schedule the site as an ancient monument was that the developer was cooperating with the archaeologists and the Rose Theatre Trust.  For example, the developer altered the design of the offices so that the remains of the Rose Theatre could be protected and preserved. 

The office block that towers over the Rose Theatre today is home to a number of government agencies, including the Crown Prosecution Service and the Health and Safety Executive.

A reconstruction of the Rose Theatre features in the film 'Shakespeare in Love'.

It is possible to visit the Rose Theatre today, watch a video about its history (narrated by Sir Ian McKellen) and enjoy plays performed on site.  Posters and other objects from the 'Save the Rose' campaign are  on display too:

The Rose Theatre Trust are currently fundraising to create an enhanced visitor centre and performance space.  You can donate here.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Sovmots Investments Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment [1977] 2 All ER 385

What's the case about?
The Centre Point development on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road was completed in 1966. It is in three main sections: the tower, a lower building across the road (the Earnshaw Building), and a bridge section connecting the two buildings.

The Earnshaw Building is itself in three sections: a car park at basement level, shops and office space on the ground and upper floors and, supported by columns on the roof of the upper floor, a six storey structure containing 36 maisonettes. The development remained empty for a number of years.

In September 1972, the local authority, the London Borough of Camden, sought a Compulsory Purchase Order so that they could acquire the maisonettes and make them available to people in need of council housing.

In August 1974, the Secretary of State for the Environment approved Camden's Compulsory Purchase Order. It was worded as follows:

36 Residential maisonettes on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th floors of the part of and adjacent to the east side of the property known as Centre Point, London, WC1, together with, (i) the corridors giving access to the said maisonettes, (ii) the entrance hall, staircase and lifts at the south end and (iii) the staircase above podium level at the north end.
The owners of Centre Point applied to have the order quashed. The maisonettes were only habitable if the occupiers had rights to use services shared with the lower part of the building such as electricity cables, rubbish chutes etc. The owners argued that the Compulsory Purchase Order was not worded in a way that gave Camden these rights and that furthermore, Camden could not use the Compulsory Purchase Order to compel the grant of these rights.

Where is it on the map?

At point X.

Who won?

The owners of Centre Point won. The House of Lords held that the Camden could not compel the owners to grant them the rights necessary to make the maisonettes habitable and that the Compulsory Purchase Order should not be read in a way that granted the rights.

What's the principle of law?

This case makes it clear that the law views the acquisition of property via a Compulsory Purchase Order very differently to the acquisition of property from a willing seller. Camden argued that it was obvious that they would need rights over the lower floors of Earnshaw House and that they should therefore be implied into the Order. But the House of Lords stated that only the property and the rights specifically named in the Order could be acquired. This is because a Compulsory Purchase Order is a tool for acquiring property against the wishes of its owner. The default position of the law is to respect the ownership of private property and it was therefore right to read the Order in a restrictive way.

This case also illustrates the principle that an owner of property cannot grant themselves legal easements (rights) over their own land. Legal easements can only be created when the land that benefits from the easement is held on a separate title to the land that carries the burden of the easement. At the time the Compulsory Purchase Order was made, the land was all held on one title. Therefore, whilst the maisonettes undoubtedly shared services with the lower parts of the building, no legal easements existed that were capable of being transferred to Camden.

What's it like today?

Despite being described as “coarse in the extreme” by Nikolaus Pevsner, the development was listed by English Heritage in 1995.

The GoToMidtown website lists some interesting facts about the construction and the history of the development, although it doesn't mention the abortive Compulsory Purchase Order of the maisonettes.

In 2013 the owners were granted planning permission to redevelop the site to brighten up the exterior, create a 'plaza' at street level and convert much of the main tower into flats.  For now there is a bar at the top of the tower offering panoramic views of London, but this is set to close when the site is redeveloped.