Commercial Leases

Licence – Right to discharge surface water – Forfeiture – Relief – Estoppel – Damages for trespass

The Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd v Vauxhall Motors Ltd (formerly General Motors UK Ltd [2019] UKSC 46 (23 October 2019)

We summarised the first instance decision of HHJ Behrens in our April 2017 edition Commercial Leases Volume 31 Issue 3 at p2409. The judge had exercised discretion to grant relief in respect of a licence to drain surface water which had been granted in perpetuity and which the licensor had forfeited for non-payment of the annual licence fee of £50. The grantor appealed to the Court of Appeal ([2018] EWCA Civ 1100). That appeal was dismissed. It was held that the judge was entitled to grant relief and to take into account the windfall that would accrue to the canal company if relief was refused. Evidently the current value of the right to discharge surface water and trade effluent into the canal was £300k–£440k pa. The canal company appealed to the Supreme Court.

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