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Enfield Council wins Court of Appeal verdict

Published Monday, 13 August 2012

Enfield Council has been awarded more than £130,000 costs after winning a landmark compensation case against a pair of advertising companies.

The Council triumphed after a road-side advertising hoarding trespassed just two feet onto its land beside the North Circular.

The Borough sued hoarding companies, Outdoor Plus Ltd and J.C Decaux (UK) Ltd , after the back-lit bill board, largely erected in the grounds of the end-of-terrace house in Bowes Road, Southgate, encroached onto public land but lost the case at the High Court.

Enfield Council appealed against the decision and has now successfully recouped thousands of pounds of tax payers money.

Enfield Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Property, Cllr Andrew Stafford, said: ”This is good news for Council tax payers because we can use the money we have recovered to protect and improve services for residents.

“The original decision by the court was utterly perverse, but thankfully common sense has prevailed.

“Hopefully this case sends out the message that we will do everything we can to defend the Council’s interest and stand up for ourselves in the event of big business attempting to exploit the Borough for the sake of a profit.”

But after a costly legal battle, Enfield was left facing a massive lawyers bills when Judge Richard Seymour awarded the council just £2 nominal damages in 2011.

The council appealed against the ruling in May 2012 and on Wednesday 25 July the Court of Appeal ruled that Outdoor Plus and JC Decaux should return the £100,000 the Council had already paid plus 1% interest, plus significant legal costs including £30,000 within 14 days.

The hoarding was first erected in 2004 and had been increased in size to a 7 metre by 5.3 metre "Mega 6" backlit panel by 2006.  

The Council’s planning team tried unsuccessfully to have the hoarding removed, but it was not until 2008 that Enfield Council realised that the concrete footings and steel stancheons supporting the sign encroached onto council-owned land by about two feet.

Enfield sought a share of the profits made from the hoarding but, in the original ruling last year the judge said that had the trespass been discovered earlier, it would have been moved and Enfield had not lost a penny through the unwitting encroachment.

However the Appeal Court subsequently ruled Judge Seymour had ruled incorrectly.

The court said the council was entitled to half the rent paid for the hoarding between September 2006 and February 2009 and awarded Enfield a total of more than £44,000, including interest.

The ruling also opened the way for the council to argue, in writing, that it should not have to pay legal bills run up in the dispute over the hoarding, which was eventually removed in early 2009. This decision was the result of that appeal. 

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