While some of the problems with the site were traced to a period before Clean Build leased the property when the landlord, John Ronan & Sons (“Ronan”), was operating a skin and hide factory, Judge Clarke was satisfied that the problem of waste unlawfully accumulating on the site was not attributable Ronan. Judge Clarke held that that none of the problems of the site, which could potentially be traced back to the Ronan period, arose from any breach by Ronan of then applicable regulations and standards. He held that to find Ronan responsible for any historical problems on the site in the absence of any breach of the standards and regulations then in force, would be to impose a retrospective obligation on parties to remediate sites even though the site in question was, in the light of the legislation then in force, properly managed and operated.
However, while the Court held that the unlawful accumulation of waste was not attributable to Ronan, as the Clean Build lease had come to an end due to the liquidation, Ronan was both the owner and the occupier of the site. Therefore, Judge Clarke held that Ronan, though without blame, must be taken to be the holder of any waste on the site and it had a responsibility to ensure that remediation measures were carried out. Judge Clarke held that Ronan was entitled to a various indemnities from the directors found to be personally liable for the unlawful accumulation of waste at the property, according to the percentage blame attributed to the directors.