July 5th, 2023 by James Goudie KC

In R (Cilldara Group Holdings Ltd) v West Northamptonshire Council (2023) EWHC 1675 (Admin) the challenge by Cilldara to the Council’s discharge of its statutory duty on a land disposal generally to obtain best consideration reasonably obtainable under Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972 (LGA 1972) failed before Steyn J, notwithstanding that Cilldara’s ultimate offer was nearly £1 million higher than the offer that was accepted from CDNL. There was a risk that Cilldara’s offer was not reliable. It was too generous to be credible. The apparent lack of attention on Cilldara’s part to the detail of the highly complex tenure of the land, the apparent failure to take any steps to investigate the ground conditions to assess the remediation required for a former landfill site, and the lack of information regarding how Cilldara intended to develop and extract value from the site, combined to give the Council rational grounds for considering that there was a high risk Cilldara was not seriously considering purchasing the land, but rather was seeking to disrupt the process to avoid CDNL doing so. The Council’s assessment that it had grounds to have much higher confidence that CDNL’s final offer was reliable and would proceed to completion, albeit that too was uncertain, was also reasonable, given CDNL’s and a Football Club’s existing interests in the Land, and CDNL’s approach to the offer process. It followed that the Council was reasonably entitled to take the view that Cilldara’s offer was not reasonably obtainable, and that CDNL’s fourth offer, which itself far exceeded the Council’s Red Book Valuation, represented the best consideration reasonably available. The Council had complied with Section 123(2) of LGA 1972.

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