Appropriation of Land

August 5th, 2014 by James Goudie KC

R (Maries) v Merton LBC (2014) EWHC 2689 (Admin) concerned the exercise by the Council of its powers of appropriation of land under s122(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 and whether land is no longer held for the purposes for which it is currently held.  The land in question is a recreation ground acquired pursuant to s164 of the Public Health Act 1875 on trust for the enjoyment of the public.  The Council proposed to expand an adjacent primary school onto part of the recreation ground.  The Court, para 59, distilled 3 material principles: (1) whether land is still or is no longer required for a particular purpose, meaning no longer needed in the public interest of the locality for that purpose, is a question for the local authority, subject only to Wednesbury;  (2) the legislative provision is concerned with relative needs or uses for which public land has or may be put, and does not require it to fall into disuse before the authority may appropriate it for some other purpose; and (3) the authority is entitled when exercising its appropriation power to seek to strike a balance between comparative local needs and to take a broad view of local needs.

Applying those principles, the Court rejected the judicial review challenge to the appropriation of part of the recreation ground.  The correct statutory question had been addressed; the approach to considering the competing needs and to the question whether the land was no longer required for the purpose for which it was held had not been flawed; and the decision was not irrational.  In any event, paras 88-91, the Judge would have denied relief.

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