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15th March 2021

Can unrepresented parties in compulsory purchase tribunal references recover their costs?

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The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has confirmed the rights and limitations of successful litigants in person to recover their costs in compulsory purchase references to the Tribunal.  The Tribunal also confirmed the cost award position where written representation procedures are used.

Two important cost issues in relation to compulsory purchase references arose in Golf Cafe Bars v West Yorkshire Combined Authority & Anor [2021] UKUT 48 (LC). Firstly, whether and at what rate can a successful litigant in person (be it a company or individual, but in either case without professional representation) claim for time spent in preparing and presenting their case. Secondly, what is the normal costs position where the reference is determined under the Tribunal’s written representations procedure.

Recoverable costs of litigants in person

The Tribunal noted that the Litigants in Person (Costs and Expenses) Act 1975 applies to proceedings before it and such provisions enable a litigant in person to recover sums in respect of any work done, and any expenses and losses incurred, by the litigant in or in connection with the proceedings.

The Tribunal further noted that in the civil courts, where a litigant in person has not proved that they have suffered loss because of the work they have done in the proceedings, the Civil Procedure Rules allow an amount to be awarded for the time reasonably spent on doing the work, limited to £19 per hour. The Tribunal decided that the same approach should be adopted for compulsory purchase references before it.

Accordingly, as the litigant in person claimant had not proved any losses in connection to the work undertaken in the successful proceedings the Tribunal awarded costs at £19 per hour for an assessed 120 hours (£2,280).

Costs on written representation procedures

The Tribunal has the power under Rule 10(14) of the Tribunal’s Procedure Rules to order at its discretion a party to pay another party the whole or part of any fee paid. The Tribunal’s Practice Directions though state that generally costs will not be awarded under the written representation procedures.

However, specifically in relation to compulsory purchase references, the Practice Directions explain that the costs incurred by a claimant in establishing the amount of compensation to which they are entitled following the compulsory acquisition of their land are part of the expense that has been imposed on the claimant by the acquisition. Accordingly, for that reason the Tribunal will normally make an order that the costs incurred by a claimant who is awarded compensation should be paid by the acquiring authority.  The Tribunal confirmed that this applied equally to the written representation procedures for which the above general practice directions on costs did not apply.

The Tribunal noted that such practice reflects the principle of equivalence core to the rules of compulsory purchase compensation.

If you have any questions in relation to this article or require assistance in matters concerning planning and compulsory purchase then the Planning and Environment Team at Hewitsons LLP will be happy to assist.