In R (Peter Day) v Shropshire Council handed down today the Court of Appeal considered the question:
When a local authority disposes of land which is subject to a statutory trust for public recreational purposes without complying with the relevant statutory requirements, does that trust continue or end; and, in either case, what are the legal implications for the authority and the disponee?
The Appellant sought to quash planning permission granted for housing over what had for a hundred years been the local recreation ground. The judge below (Lang J) assumed that the land had been held by the local authority for the benefit of locals’ recreational use pursuant to a statutory trust under either the Public Health Act 1875 or the Open Spaces Act 1906. However in 2017 Shrewsbury Town Council sold the site without going through the statutory consultation processes under the Local Government Act 1972 which are required in order to discharge the statutory trust. Shropshire Council subsequently granted planning permission for a housing development without acknowledging the trust. Lang J held that the statutory trust subsisted after the sale, but became unenforceable against the third party disponee.
The Court of Appeal, dismissing the appeal, held that where statutory trust land was disposed without following the statutory processes, then the statutory trust subsists if the disponee had actual notice of the trust, but the disponee is otherwise protected by section 128(2)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 and the trust is consequently discharged on sale.
Alex Goodman acted for the Appellant, instructed by Leigh Day.