The High Court has recently handed down a decision, which will be welcome news to land owners and developers alike who own sites that are at risk of trespassers from entering them.
In the case of Vastint Leeds BV –v- Persons Unknown, the court ruled that an injunction could be granted against persons unknown to prevent future incursion onto the land in question. What was unusual about this case is that whilst orders are often made against “Persons Unknown” who are already in occupation, this order was made in anticipation of a possible future risk.
The site in question was the former Tetley Brewery site in Leeds. The site consisted of several buildings and open space. The unoccupied buildings on the site gave rise to safety concerns and at the time the proceedings were issued, despite the existing site security, there had already been four incidents of trespass, primarily involving caravans, either on the site or on adjoining land.
The land owner explained that there had been a number of incidents at another site owned by a group company involving actual or attempted illegal raves. The land owner also highlighted it had incurred clean up costs of approximately £25,000 after a previous incursion by trespassers to illegally fly tip.
The land owner argued that a preventative injunction (termed a quia timet injunction) was appropriate due to the risks to the health and safety of those trespassing; the irrecoverable costs that the land owner would incur in dealing with such a trespass (and clean up costs); and the fact that an injunction, which potentially would constitute a criminal offence if breached, would underline the seriousness of the position to the police who might be more responsive in the case of any trespass in breach of a court order.
In reaching the decision on granting the injunction, the court recognised that the significant costs in dealing with the removal of any trespassers and/or the clean up costs were substantial and the reality was that such costs were unlikely to be ever recovered from the persons who committed the incursion. This unfair commercial burden together with the steps the land owner had taken already to secure the site and the previous history of trespass meant that the court felt it was appropriate to make the injunction in this case.
Commenting on the case, Mark Steggles, Partner in the Property Dispute Resolution Team commented as follows:
"The costs associated with the removal of trespassers and clean up costs can be significant and are usually irrecoverable insofar as the land owner or developer is concerned. The fact that the court is willing to grant such a deterrent for high risk sites is welcome news."
For further information, please contact Mark Steggles whose contact details are as follows: email: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: 01892 701273 or any other member of the Property Dispute Resolution Team.
Information correct as at October 2018.