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GT Motoring Solutions Ltd -v- Williams [2023]

Preliminary issue: ground (f) landlord’s intent to demolish or reconstruct. Tenants won on subjective intention (landlords had no firm and settled intention), objective intention (both planning permission and finance) and timing (whether demolition / reconstruction could commence on termination).

The claimants were business tenants at Abbeydale Road South, Dore, Sheffield, where they display and sell cars and repair and maintain motor vehicles. The landlords claimed they wanted to sell, or demolish and sell with planning permission for an age exclusive apartment scheme, or demolish and build that scheme, or demolish and build in a joint venture.

On subjective intention, the landlords’ intention had fluctuated. Further, they were trustees and had no trustee resolution. There was no evidence from their wives, who were trustees or beneficiaries or whose consent might be required.

On objective intention, there was no planning permission or live planning application, either to demolish or to demolish and reconstruct. The landlords had failed to seek permission for, or obtain, expert evidence on planning prospects. It was wrong to argue that the burden was on the tenants to show there was some objection to planning, as that would reverse the burden of proof. Planning permission was always subject to Environment Agency consent, on which there was no evidence. So there was no evidence from the planning authority as to prospects of obtaining planning permission, nor expert evidence, so the Court could not find a realistic prospect of planning permission being granted.
On objective intention, there was no evidence of the cost of redevelopment, there was no evidence that trust funds could properly be used for the development, there was no evidence of other finance.

On timing, there was no evidence how long it would take to obtain planning permission, nor the availability of a demolition company or a builder, so no evidence that demolition or reconstruction could start “on termination”.

The Judgment can be viewed here