Council liable for negligent misstatement on CON25

In the recent case of Chesterton Commercial (Oxon) Limited v Oxfordshire County Council [2015] EWHC 2020 (Ch), the claimant was a property development company who sued the council for damages for a negligent misstatement on information provided regarding the status of land adjoining that being acquired by the claimant given in CON29. The claimants’ claim for damages was upheld. The council owed a duty of care and the claimant had relied on the information provided.

The land acquired by the claimant had included parking spaces and other land that appeared to directly abut the highway. In responding to the questions in the local search about the highway, the council had relied on a plan that showed that the parking spaces and other land did not form part of the highway. In fact, there had been an ongoing issue regarding the land and in fact part of the land did form part of the highway. The court in making its decision found that it was reasonably foreseeable that if the information provided by the council was incorrect or incomplete (which it was) the land would suffer a diminution in value. The claimant had been forced to concede a reduction in the purchase price of some of the units as a result of the position.

Interestingly, the judge in the case said, “I entirely accept that the Claimant did not make known to the Defendant that it was buying for development and re-sale, but that matters not where the Claimant is not arguing for prospective development losses to be paid by way of damages but relies on diminution of value from pre-existing use”. It therefore seems that where the enquirer has plans for future development, these should be made clear to the local authority when making the search. Any loss caused as a result of a negligent misstatement would cover diminution in value in its current use and not loss for future development of the land otherwise.