In a judgment handed down on 26 September 2017, Mr Justice Dove:
• Summarised the principles applicable to CPO challenges
• Rejected grounds based on technical procedural breaches which had not caused the claimant prejudice
• Dealt with an unusual allegation of bias against the Inspector conducting the public inquiry based on an email she unwisely sent to the PINS caseworker
Mr Kuznetsov was the last leaseholder remaining at Bacton Low Rise Estate, which forms part of a redevelopment site in Gospel Oak owned by the London Borough of Camden. In 2013 Camden granted planning permission for the construction of nearly 300 homes at the site. In 2015 it made the London Borough of Camden (Bacton Low Rise) Compulsory Purchase Order 2015. Mr Kuznetsov and a Russian company with which he was associated brought three claims challenging the confirmation of the CPO by the Secretary of State after a public inquiry.
Following a 2 day hearing, Mr Justice Dove rejected each of Mr Kuznetsov's "great many allegations".
The judgment contains a helpful distillation of the legal principles that apply to CPO challenges under section 23 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 (see paras 30-35).
Although the Judge accepted that there had been a number of technical breaches of the procedural rules applicable to the CPO and Inquiry, including in relation to advertisement of the CPO and service of Inquiry documents, these grounds of challenge were rejected on the basis that Mr Kuznetsov had not demonstrated that they caused him prejudice: see paras 45, 46 and 55.
The ground of challenge that gave Mr Justice Dove "the greatest cause for concern" was an allegation of actual or apparent bias founded on an email from the Inspector to the caseworker at PINs describing Mr Kuznetsov's objections to the CPO as "time-wasting" and "laughable" and expressing the view that his reversal of his decision to withdraw from the Inquiry was "very unfortunate" (see para 68).
However, the Judge accepted that: "It is not uncommon, with the best will in the world, for a tribunal to become vexed by a participant if they are focusing on bad or irrelevant points, or if their presentation is repetitious or unhelpful." In the end, he was persuaded that the Inspector was merely: "venting her frustration and irritation with the first claimant's presentation of his case. That is a world away from concluding that there was a real possibility she was biased" (see para 71).
The full judgment can be read here.
Camden has since recovered possession of the subject property.
Matt Hutchings QC and Harriet Townsend represented the London Borough of Camden.