Legitimate Expectation

October 5th, 2018 by James Goudie KC

In R (Save Britain’s Heritage) v SoS for CLG and Westminster City Council (2018) EWCA Civ 2137 the Court of Appeal considered whether there was a legitimate expectation that reasons would be given, based on a promise. The Court reaffirmed (paragraph 39) that in such a case the position is that, if a public body indicates a clear and unequivocal policy that will be followed and applied in a particular type of case, then an individual is entitled to expect that policy to be operated, unless and until a reasonable decision is taken that the policy be modified or withdrawn, or implementation interferes with that body’s other statutory duties.

The Court also said (paragraph 50) that there is “no hard and fast rule” about reliance in such a case. In legitimate expectation based on promise cases the applicant does not necessarily need to show specific reliance on the particular promise and/or that he or she has suffered detriment in consequence. A promise made to the world is enough to found a legislative expectation claim. In those circumstances, a public law claim based on an unequivocal promise is not to be treated as if it were some species of estoppel.

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