Evidence Neglected Not Good Reason for New Hearing

When Bristol City Council wished to redevelop parts of the city centre, it was necessary to compulsorily purchase many properties, one of which was an 18-storey office block. This was taken into possession by the Council and demolished.The Council and the previous owners of the office block were unable to agree the appropriate level of compensation to be paid for the compulsory purchase. The issue was complex because there were no equivalent ‘open market’ sales that could be used as a guideline.The Council valued the property at £2.4 million. The valuers appointed by the former owners considered the appropriate value was at least £15 million and possibly a great deal more. The negotiations between the two sides dragged on and proved fractious.When the matter was put to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), it issued a draft decision placing a value of £4.5 million on the building.The former owners objected and sought to introduce evidence of the value of the building (in the form of letters containing offers to purchase it). These supported a value in the region of £20 million, subject to planning permissions being granted. Surprisingly, the offers had not been disclosed to the Tribunal, even though the Council was also aware of them. The owner’s expert witness had forgotten about them and this error was not rectified by the directors of the company or their professional advisors.The Council objected to the introduction of new evidence at this late stage.The Tribunal considered that although the sums were substantial and there were other factors which supported the admission of new evidence, it could not allow the former owners to have a ‘second bite at the cherry’.The previous owners of the building appealed to the Court of Appeal, which only had to consider whether the Tribunal was right to refuse to accept the offer letters as evidence.The Court ruled that the Tribunal did have the right to reject the new evidence. ‘Forgetting’ to produce the evidence in the first instance was not a sufficient reason to allow it to be introduced at a later stage.“When conducting litigation, it is essential to present all the relevant evidence from the start,” says Jennifer Tear, Solicitor Advocate, Wolferstans “as you will not normally have the right to introduce new evidence at a later stage.” For further information or advice, please contact Jennifer Tear, Solicitor Advocate, Wolferstans on 01752 292308 or email jtear@wolferstans.com

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