Stannard v Issa: PC 1987

(Jamaica) The landowners proposed to erect six blocks providing some 40 dwellings, and sought variation of a restrictive covenant to allow this. The provsion as to the variation of restrictive covenants was whether there were: ‘practical benefits sufficient in nature or extent to justify the continued existence of (the restriction)’. The area was a ‘peaceful seaside enclave of a family nature’. The judge had dismissed the application to modify the covenants, but this was reversed by the Court of Appeal, on the grounds that the judge should have taken into account the potentially damaging developments which could have been carried out without breaching the covenants.
Held: The Court of Appeal’s approach was criticised: ‘Given any set of restrictions it is not usually difficult to conjure up colourful or hypothetical examples of things which could be done within the framework of the covenants as they stand and which, if done, would substantially repair or defeat the purpose for which the covenants were imposed, but that is not an exercise which the court is enjoined by the section to undertake. What the court exercising this jurisdiction is enjoined to do is to consider and evaluate the practical benefits served by the restrictions. The purpose of these restrictions is obvious on their face. It was to preserve the privacy of each purchaser’s plot and the quality of the totality of the sub-divisions by restricting housing density, by regulating commercial activity and providing a lower cost limit intended to ensure good quality development. Whether or not the covenants as drawn are sufficiently specific to achieve all these purposes in the face of a really determined attack by somebody intent on disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood is really immaterial. The undisputed evidence was that in fact all those plots which had been built on had in fact been developed by the erection of single storey private dwellings. It was the trial judge’s opinion, after a view, that the land formed a peaceful seaside enclave of a family nature. That was the actuality and, with respect to them, the majority of the Court of Appeal, in positing the nightmare of a complex of medical centres or six-storey castles covering the entirety of the sub-divided lots, were ignoring altogether the practical effects of the restrictions and engaging in unnecessary flights of imagination in order to test whether the original intention of the restrictions was capable of achievements in all circumstances. In doing so they were, in their Lordships judgment, asking themselves the wrong question. The question is not ‘what was the original intention of the restriction and is it still being achieved?’ but ‘does the restriction achieve some practical benefit, and if so, is it a benefit of sufficient weight to justify the continuance of the restrictions without modification?’


[1987] AC 175


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedShephard and others v Turner and Another CA 23-Jan-2006
The appellants challenged the removal of a restrictive covenant on a neighbour’s house restricting further building on the land to allow further house in the garden. It was in a small close of houses all erected, and the covenant imposed, in 1952. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Land

Updated: 01 May 2022; Ref: scu.238674