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High Court rules on scope of the London Squares Preservation Act 1931

DATE: 10 Feb 2015

In R (Eliterank) v the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea [2015] EWHC 220 (Admin) the High Court has considered for the first time the London Squares Preservation Act 1931 (“the 1931 Act”). The Claimant, the freehold owner of the residential property at 25 Collingham Road, London SW5 (“the Property”), which forms part of a terrace of dwellings running from 15-33 Collingham Road.  The rear facades of that terrace of houses forms the eastern boundary of a private garden square, Courtfield Gardens West (“the Gardens”).  The northwest and south boundaries of the square abut sections of the public highway known as Courtfield Gardens.  The Gardens are a “protected” square within the meaning of section 2(1) of the 1931 Act.  A  dispute arose concerning a lightwell and related structures which the Claimant has sought to create at the rear of the Property, pursuant to planning permissions granted by the Council for the conversion of the Property from a hotel into flats, in order to provide light to the rooms in the rear of the ground floor and basement flat. The Council threatened to seek an injunction under the 1931 Act and in response the Claimant made an application for consent for the lightwell and related works under s. 3 of the 1931 Act. The Council concluded that the application was “invalid” as being outside what could be consented under the 1931 Act. The Claimant then sought judicial review alleging, inter alia, that the Council had misinterpreted the meaning of “underground” works under the 1931 Act. Supperstone J. dismissed the claim.  The Judge noted at para. 8 of the judgment:

“Counsel informed me that there is no authority on the construction and scope of the 1931 Act.  Mr James Maurici QC, for the Claimant, contends that this case raises an important point of legal principle for owners of properties adjoining squares throughout London.  If the Defendant is correct then not just the Claimant but the owners of 15, 17, 21, 27, 31 and 33 Collingham Road (and other owners with properties adjoining squares elsewhere in London) all face the prospect that the development to the rear of their properties, which in a number of cases has been in place for many years, is now to be regarded as unlawful under the 1931 Act and hence liable to enforcement, including removal by injunction proceedings.” 

The judgment can be read here

James Maurici QC appeared for the Claimant instructed by Stitt & Co.