The Looe Harbour Commissioners are a statutory body who principally derive their powers from The East and West Looe Harbour and Bridge Act 1848 and various other harbour statutes. They owned and maintained the infrastructure of the Looe Fish Market and the surrounding harbour area. The harbour area was used for fishing related industries and the maintenance and upkeep of the harbour was the responsibility of the commissioners. Looe Fuels Ltd, was a company whose principle business was the supply of diesel from the quayside at Looe, and had been in operation since 1988. It dispensed fuels for vessels from a tank on the harbour. Over the course of time the original tank had to be replaced, and a new one was installed at the quayside. After a special meeting held by the commissioners they decided that they would operate the facility created by the installation of the new fuel tank, putting Looe Fuels out of business.
Looe Fuels applied for judicial review of the commissioners’ decision to install, set up and operate a new fuel tank on the quayside at Looe on the basis that the powers of the commissioners had not extended to the buying and selling of fuel.
Stanley Burnton J allowed the application, declaring that the Commissioners did not have power to buy and sell diesel fuel. He held that it was clear from ss 18 and 33 of the 1848 Act that the commissioners’ main business was the improvement and maintenance of the harbour, and that that business had not involved the purchasing and reselling of fuel. He rejected an argument that the Commissioners had an implied power to sell fuel. He found that the purchasing and reselling of fuel was not necessary for the commissioners’ function to be performed, and nor was that function incidental to the improvement or maintenance of the harbour.