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Compulsory purchase of neglected property did not involve a breach of the council’s equality duties towards the disabled owner

07.08.2020

David Foley v The County Council of the City and County of Cardiff [2020] EWHC 2182 (Admin)

In a judgment handed down today the High Court has dismissed a challenge to the compulsory purchase of a house in Cardiff that had been vacant and in a state of disrepair since 1994. The claimant owner of the property had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years and been unable to repair the property and bring it back into use. In 2009 the local authority first expressed concerns about the state of the property to the owner and over the following years sought to encourage him to return it to a habitable condition. Unfortunately, attempts by the owner to obtain funding (which depended in part on him obtaining planning permission for a proposed conversion to flats) came to nothing and by the time the compulsory purchase order (CPO) was made in 2019 the property was still empty and uninhabitable.

The owner challenged the CPO on the grounds that the council had failed to pay sufficient regard to his disability and to make reasonable adjustments to the CPO process. Unreasonableness and a breach of the owner's Convention rights under Article 1, Protocol 1 were also alleged.

HHJ Jarman QC (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) dismissed all the grounds of challenge, holding that although no formal equality impact assessment had been carried out, the officers of the Council were aware of the owner's disability and had given it due regard in their dealings with him, making reasonable adjustments in the process. The Council had tried to help the owner obtain funding for his intended conversion works, and an attempt to secure repairs to the property through the service of an improvement notice had largely failed. Given the high need for housing in Cardiff and the length of time the property had been vacant and out of repair, there was a compelling case in the public interest for its compulsory acquisition.

Robin Green acted for the defendant Council.