Appeal against CPO made over ‘derelict and unsightly property’ refused

fife_councilA man with an interest in a property which was found to be in a “state of disrepair” has failed in an appeal against the decision to grant a compulsory purchase order (CPO) over the house.

Judges in the Court of Session Inner House were not persuaded that there was any force in any of the complaints by the appellant John Mowbray about a reporter’s recommendation or a decision by the Scottish Ministers to confirm a Fife Council order over the property in Leslie.

Lord Eassie, Lord Menzies and Lady Clark of Calton heard that the appellant acquired an interest in the property at 222 High Street, Leslie in terms of missives in 1981, but never recorded title to the property.

No steps were taken to maintain the C-listed building within the Leslie Conservation Area or its associated garden ground since 1981 and the property, which had been unoccupied for a lengthy period, had become “increasingly derelict and unsightly” and was “potentially liable to rot and other decay”.

The garden was partially filled with rubbish and waste material, including a scrap car, and its visual appearance detracted “very seriously from the residential amenity of neighbouring properties, as well as the general scene when seen from the street”, the court heard.

In November 2006, Fife Council made the Fife Council (222 High Street, Leslie) Compulsory Purchase Order 2006, under the powers conferred by the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 and the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act 1947, but the appellant objected and the Scottish Ministers appointed a reporter to carry out an inquiry into the objections.

The reporter observed that Mr and Mrs Mowbray had shown “no real intent to do anything to maintain the property and make it habitable” and that the state of the property showed “a clear disregard for the proper upkeep of the building, as well as for the situation having to be endured by neighbours”. He concluded that the local authority was correct to pursue the order and recommended that the order be confirmed.

However, the appellant, who acted on his own behalf in the appeal proceedings, argued that the way in which the reporter conducted the inquiry amounted to a contravention of his right to a fair hearing in terms of the Human Rights Act 1998. He submitted that it was “improper” for the reporter to make an unaccompanied site visit, without telling any of the parties that he intended to do so. He also took issue with several of the statements made in the report.

Refusing the appeal, the judges observed that the grounds of appeal “amounted to little more than expressions of dissatisfaction at the conclusions which the reporter reached” and “did not contain any statement or argument that the reporter had erred in law”.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Menzies said: “In the present case we consider that the reporter did everything required of him. He focused first on the council’s primary reason for promoting the order, namely the state of the property.

“He found it to be in a state of disrepair, having an adverse impact on the street scene in general, and seriously affecting the residential amenity of neighbouring properties. We consider that he was correct to focus on the state of the property, and that his finding cannot properly be challenged.

“The reporter made a finding that Mr and Mrs Mowbray have shown no real intent to do anything to maintain the property and make it habitable, and that the appellant’s stated intention to resolve the matter lacked conviction. Nothing before us suggests that the reporter was not entitled to make such findings.

“In conclusion, we consider that the appellant’s grounds of appeal disclose nothing more than a dissatisfaction with the reporter’s conclusion, and a desire for a complete re-hearing before this court. We do not consider that there is any merit in this appeal, and we refuse it.”

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