Western Fish Products Ltd v Penwith District Council and Another: CA 22 May 1978

Estoppel Cannot Oust Statutory Discretion

The plaintiff had been refused planning permission for a factory. The refusals were followed by the issue of Enforcement Notices and Stop Notices. The plaintiff said that they had been given re-assurances upon which they had relied.
Held: The appeal failed. The court tried to reconcile invocations of estoppel with the general principle that for a public authority: ‘an estoppel cannot be raised to prevent the exercise of a statutory discretion or to prevent or excuse the performance of a statutory duty.’
Estoppel cannot be used so as to fetter a statutory discretion entrusted to a local authority

Megaw, Lawton, Browne LJJ
[1981] 2 All ER 204, [1978] EWCA Civ 6, (1978) 38 P and CR 7
England and Wales
CitedHammersley v Baron De Biel, An Infant, By W J Blake, His Next Friend HL 25-Mar-1845
The Plaintiffs father, B, had agreed with one T that he would marry T’s daughter and provide a jointure for her in consideration of T’s undertaking to leave a sum of pounds 10,000 in his will to his daughter to be settled on her and her children. B . .
CitedRamsden v Dyson HL 1866
The Vice-Chancellor had held that two tenants of Sir John Ramsden, the owner of a large estate near Huddersfield, were entitled to long leases of plots on the estate. They ostensibly held the plots as tenants at will only, but they had spent their . .
CitedPlimmer v Mayor, Councillors and Citizens of the City of Wellington PC 1884
(New Zealand) Mr Plimmer had occupied land under a revocable licence from the Corporation’s predecessor-in-title and at their request had made extensive improvements to it. He sought compensation when the land was to be vested in the defendant. The . .
CitedEvenden v Guildford Football Club CA 1975
Lord Denning rejected an argument that, for promissory estoppels to apply, parties must be contractually bound to one another saying: ‘Promissory estoppel . . applies whenever a representation is made, whether of fact or law, present or future, . .
CitedMaritime Electric Company Limited v General Dairies Limited PC 8-Feb-1937
(Canada) . .
ApprovedBrooks and Burton Ltd v The Secretary of State for the Environment 1977
Lord Widgery, Lord Chief Justice, discussed extending the concept of estoppel saying: ‘There has been some advance in recent years of this doctrine of estoppel as applied to local authorities through their officers, and the most advanced case is the . .
CitedCentral London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd KBD 1947
Promissory Estoppel Created
The plaintiff leased a block a flats to the defendant in 1939, at an annual rental of pounds 2500. High Trees had difficulty in filling the flats because of the war, and the parties agreed in writing in 1940 to reduce the rental to a half. No time . .
CitedSouthend-on-Sea Corporation v Hodgson (Wickford) Ltd QBD 1961
The Corporation had, by its engineer, said that its permission for the use of land as a builder’s yard was not in fact and law required. It was mistaken in this view.
Held: What the engineer had said could not create an estoppel preventing the . .
CitedCampbell Discount Company Ltd v Bridge CA 1961
Agreed compensation is not a penalty
A hirer under a hire purchase agreement could terminate the hiring during the course of the term whereupon the hirer was required to pay a sum by way of agreed compensation.
Held: A sum of money payable under a contract on the occurrence of an . .
CitedInwards v Baker CA 13-Jan-1965
An indulgent father had encouraged his son to build a bungalow on his, the father’s, land. The son had done so in the expectation, encouraged by the father, that he would be permitted to remain in occupation.
Held: The court formulated the . .
CitedWells v Minister of Housing and Local Government CA 1967
It had been the practice of planning authorities, acting through their officers, to tell applicants whether or not planning permission was necessary. A letter was written by the Council Engineer telling the applicants that no permission was . .
CitedLever (Finance) Ltd v City of Westminster CA 22-Jul-1970
The appellant developers had obtained detailed planning approval for fourteen houses, but after adjustments for a building line, moving several properties distances of several feet toward other properties, further plans were submitted without . .
CitedMoorgate Mercantile Company Ltd v Twitchings CA 1975
Lord Denning MR held: ‘Estoppel is not a rule of evidence. It is not a cause of action. It is a principle of justice and of equity. It comes to this. When a man, by his words or conduct, has led another to believe in a particular state of affairs, . .

Cited by:
CitedRegina (Reprotech (Pebsham) Ltd) v East Sussex County Council Reprotech (Pebsham) Ltd v Same HL 28-Feb-2002
The respondent company had asserted that the local authority had made a determination of the issue of whether electricity could be generated on a waste treatment site without further planning permission. The council said that without a formal . .
CitedDownderry Construction Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and Another Admn 11-Jan-2002
The applicant had an existing planning permission. They sought and received confirmation from the local authority that the permission remained in effect. They then sought a certificate of lawful use. The letter confirming the permission had been . .
CitedRegina v North and East Devon Health Authority ex parte Coughlan and Secretary of State for Health Intervenor and Royal College of Nursing Intervenor CA 16-Jul-1999
Consultation to be Early and Real Listening
The claimant was severely disabled as a result of a road traffic accident. She and others were placed in an NHS home for long term disabled people and assured that this would be their home for life. Then the health authority decided that they were . .
CitedStancliffe Stone Company Ltd v Peak District National Park Authority QBD 22-Jun-2004
The claimants sought a declaration. Planning permission had been confirmed for four mineral extraction sites by letter in 1952. In 1996, two were listed as now being dormant. The claimant said the letter of 1952 created on single planning permision . .
CitedLondon Borough of Bexley v Maison Maurice Ltd ChD 15-Dec-2006
The council had taken land by compulsory purchase in order to construct a dual carriageway. It then claimed that it had left undedicated a strip .5 metre wide as a ransom strip to prevent the defendant restoring access to the road.
Held: The . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Administrative, Estoppel, Local Government

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.262693