Tottenham stadium: High Court challenge to CPO

Tottenham Hotspur’s nightmare over the creation of its new stadium to seat more than 56,000 has worsened with news of a new High Court challenge to the validity of the purchase of the land — making it highly unlikely that the club can move to the new stadium in time for the 2017-18 season.

In 2012 Haringey Council made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) authorising the compulsory purchase of land, some of which belonged and still belongs to Archway Street Metal Works Limited (“Archway”) and the Josif family (who own the company) to enable the land required for the stadium to be sold to Spurs.

A CPO should only be made where there is a compelling case in the public interest such that it outweighs and justifies interfering with a landowner’s human rights.

Archway and the Josifs objected to the CPO, leading to a public inquiry in early 2013 with a recommendation from the inspector not to confirm the CPO. One of the concerns raised by the inspector was that because the scheme required public funding this would dilute the actual benefit to the public.

The Secretary of State disagreed and confirmed the CPO on July 11, 2014, subject to certain modifications. He concluded there was a compelling case in the public interest sufficiently to justify the interference with Archway and the Josif family’s human rights and for the land Spurs required for the stadium to be sold.

The saga continues. Now Archway and the Josif family have launched a High Court challenge to the validity of the CPO that will require the court to determine whether there has been a legal or procedural error in the process of confirmation.

The grounds of challenge are:

1. The authorisation of the CPO granted is not empowered to be granted under the relevant legislation, ie, that a decision has been reached that is ultra-vires, totally “irrational”, the inspector or minister has refused or neglected to take into account information they ought to have taken into account or, conversely, taken into account information they ought not to have taken into account.

2. Relevant requirements or regulations under the appropriate legislation have not been complied with and substantial prejudice has been caused.

This may include issues such as procedural irregularities, failure to provide an adequately reasoned decision or failure to consider alternative land to be included in the CPO, all of which the applicants need to show have caused them substantial prejudice.

If the High Court dismisses a challenge the applicants can try to take matters further to the Court of Appeal.

The council’s compulsory purchase powers must be exercised within three years of confirmation of the CPO being published.

It can choose from a number of methods to acquire the land, one of which is execution of a general vesting declaration, the effect of which is that the title to the land will vest in the council. Archway and the Josifs could refuse to back down and seek a judicial review in respect of the decision to implement the CPO.

Even if Archway and the Josifs ultimately fail in their bid to challenge the CPO, in the meantime Spurs fans are left with the unhappy prospect of having to travel to Stadium MK in Milton Keynes to watch home games in 2017-2018 — and the club will no doubt have to revise its construction programme, deal with any funding issues and with the associated delays, practical difficulties; not to mention the enormous costs associated with the on-going battle.

This article was written by Faiza Ahmad in the Real Estate Team and first appeared in The Times on 25 September 2014.