Westminster Bank Limited v The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Beverley Borough Council: HL 1971

The Bank’s application for planning permission was refused on the grounds that the development might prejudice the possible future widening of a road. The local authority could have prescribed a building line in accordance with a provision of the Highways Act, 1959, but in that event would have had to pay compensation for the injurious effect on the bank’s land. The bank sought to quash the refusal.
Held: Although the local authority might have proceeded under the Act of 1959 they were entitled to refuse planning permission on the ground stated, even though the result would be to deprive the bank of compensation.
Where a council has two alternative statutory methods of achieving the same objective, it is entitled to adopt the one which imposes the least burden on the public purse.
Lord Dilhorne said: ‘It was strenuously argued for the appellants that the county council, having failed to prescribe such a line under the Highways Act, could not lawfully achieve the [same] result . . by refusing planning permission for all development within [the relevant area]. The validity of this argument depends on whether the county council had been given by Parliament a choice of methods for preventing such development or were bound to exercise their powers under the Highways Acts. The answer to this question, in my opinion, is to be found in section 220 of the Act of 1962’.
The principle that property rights should only be removed without compensation on the use of clear wording in a statute was explained by Lord Reid saying that it flows from the fact that Parliament seldom intends to do that, and that before attributing such an intention we should be sure that it was really intended. However: ‘When we are seeking the intention of Parliament that may appear from express words but it may also appear by irresistible inference from the statute read as a whole. But I would agree that, if there is a reasonable doubt, the subject should be given the benefit of the doubt.’


Lord Dilhorne, Lord Reid


[1971] AC 508


Town and Country Planning Act 1962 220


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedPeacock, Re SC 22-Feb-2012
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CitedCusack v London Borough of Harrow SC 19-Jun-2013
The landowner practised from property in Harrow. The former garden had now for many years been used as a forecourt open to the highway, for parking cars of staff and clients. Cars crossed the footpath to gain access, and backing out into the road . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and the Regions and another, ex parte Spath Holme Limited HL 7-Dec-2000
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CitedThe Public Law Project, Regina (on The Application of) v Lord Chancellor SC 13-Jul-2016
Proposed changes to the Legal Aid regulations were challenged as being invalid, for being discriminatory. If regulations are not authorised under statute, they will be invalid, even if they have been approved by resolutions of both Houses under the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Planning, Local Government

Updated: 20 May 2022; Ref: scu.453068