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APPEAL COURT ENDORSES DoT's REFUSAL TO BUY 'BLIGHTED' HOME

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A couple who for years have been battling to force the department of transport into taking their road-blighted home...
A couple who for years have been battling to force the department of transport into taking their road-blighted home off their hands, have suffered what is almost certain to be their final defeat in London's appeal court.

Despite his 'considerable sympathy' for Lieutenant-Colonel David Owen and his wife Barbara, Mr Justice Hutchison said there were 'no grounds' for granting them leave to appeal against a high court judge's November 1995 decision against them.

After fighting his case through three high court hearings and two more before the appeal court, Colonel Owen conceded that yesterday's ruling 'probably' spelt the end of his hopes of forcing the DoT into buying his blighted home which lies close to the route of the Cirencester by-pass.

But he said outside court that he and his wife were now pinning their hopes on a damages claim they are bringing against the department and which is due to be heard at Cirencester county court on February 26.

'The department has said that they accept we will be seriously affected by the by-pass, but have refused to compensate us. We are now hoping that a county court judge will see things our way.

'Every time I hear a judge expressing sympathy for our plight but not being able to do anything about it, I just squirm.

'What they seem to be saying is that if you buy a property when you know there is to be a new road built nearby, it is entirely your fault if, after you have bought it, the effects of the proposed route turn out to be far far worse than you were previously led to believe'.

The Owens say that the home they purchased in 1990 for £175,000 - (Ashgrove) The Whiteways, Baunton - has had its value cut in half because of the by-pass, construction of which is due to commence later this year.

But in November, Mr Justice Popplewell ruled that they should have been alerted to the road-building scheme by a 'line on the map' before they bought their home.

Colonel Owen insisted today that he and his wife had not then known that the by-pass would be a dual carriageway road, passing very close to their home, and would involve excavation of a nearby landfill site.

The couple thought that victory was within their grasp when in June 1994 the appeal court ordered the DoT to reconsider its 1992 decision not to purchase their home.

The department subsequently accepted that the Owens' enjoyment of the property would be 'seriously affected' by the by-pass scheme.

But it again refused to purchase their home, insisting that they had had 'foreknowledge' of the construction plans before they bought it at the full, unblighted, market price.

Mr Justice Popplewell expressed his sympathy in November when he upheld the Department's decision.

And Mr Justice Hutchison - sitting in the appeal court with the Master of the Rolls, Sir Thomas Bingham, and Lord Justice Simon Brown sent the retired soldier away with nothing but the court's regrets.

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