The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has confirmed the limitation period for compulsory purchase references in a case that serves as a salutary warning to parties about leaving the submission of notices of reference or other types of appeal to the last possible moment.
In Land and Estate Developments UK Ltd v Nottingham City Council  UKUT 25 (LC) the Tribunal was asked to decide upon a preliminary issue of whether the claimant had made their reference of disputed compensation arising from a compulsory purchase order out of time and was therefore statute barred.
The facts are straightforward. The claimant owned a long leasehold interest in land and buildings that were acquired by Nottingham City Council for the Nottingham Express Transit System. The disputed claim for compensation was substantial at just over £1.3 million. Important to the preliminary issue, the long leasehold interest was vested in the acquiring authority on 1 July 2014.
The claimant’s agent filed by email its notice of reference to the Tribunal on 30 June 2020 via four emails due to size limits with the first received in the inbox of the Tribunal at 5.08pm and the last at 5.31pm. The council contended that the last day and time for filing the notice was 5.00pm on 30 June 2020 and therefore the notice of reference was late and out of time.
Limitation period for CPO references
The relevant limitation period for filing a notice of reference to the Tribunal is 6 years from the date the land vests in the acquiring authority. Section 10(3) of the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act 1981 (“1981 Act”) states where land is acquired under a general vesting declaration:
“(3) The time within which a question of disputed compensation arising out of an acquisition of an interest in land in respect of which a notice to treat is deemed to have been served by virtue of Part III of this Act may be referred to the Upper Tribunal shall be 6 years from the date at which the person claiming compensation, or a person under whom he derives title, first knew, or could reasonably be expected to have known, of the vesting of the interest by virtue of Part III of this Act. This subsection shall be construed as one with Part I of the Limitation Act 1980.”
The 5pm deadline provision contended by the council arises from Rule 12(1) of the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) (Lands Chamber) Rules 2010 which states:
“An act required by these Rules, a practice direction or a direction to be done on or by a particular day must be done by 5pm on that day”.
In this case, the land vested on 1 July 2014 and therefore the council contended the 6 years, counted from the date of vesting, expired on 30 June 2020 and in accordance with Rule 12(1) at 5pm. The claimant contended that the 6 years should be counted on the first day after vesting (ie. 2 July 2014) and alternatively the 5pm deadline of Rule 12(1) did not apply to the limitation period in Section 10(3).
Decision of the Tribunal
The Tribunal found that the claimant’s emailed notice of reference was made within 6 years of the date on which the land was vested in the acquiring authority and therefore was in time. On the issue of when the clock started running for the 6 years the Tribunal found that as the land was vested in the acquiring authority throughout the whole day of 1 July 2014 there was no reason why time should not have started to run on that day. It follows that the 6 years’ time period for filing expired on 30 June 2020.
However, to the claimant’s relief, the Tribunal found that its procedural Rules do not override the 1981 Act which does not prescribe a 5pm or any other time of the day deadline. Therefore, the notice of reference needed only to be delivered before midnight of the last day. That is of course practically a lot easier when filing by email as opposed to a hard copy method of delivery.
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.