Leeds City Council has overcome a major hurdle standing in the way of its 'socially desirable' housing development plans for a site which was once playing fields.
But the council's victory in London's high Court was at the expense of the Leeds Industrial Co-Operative Society who had hoped to be paid about £900,000 for parting with its legal rights over the land at Holt, Cookridge.
Mr Justice McCullough said the Co-Operative Society had conveyed the land to the city council's predecessor in 1928, but subject to a condition that the site could not be built on and would always be preserved as playing fields or a recreation ground.
Though the Co-Operative Society is entitled to statutory compensation for the loss of its rights, it had hoped for far more.
The council faced allegations that it had failed to give proper notice of its intention to appropriate the land. And the Co-Operative Society claimed the appropriation was in any event not for 'legitimate planning purposes', but was an attempt by the council to use its statutory powers to 'circumvent' its valuable rights.
But Mr Justice McCullough, in court last Thursday, dismissed all the Co-Operative Society's complaints.
'The question is whether the council acted unlawfully. Since there is no statutory obligation to give more notice than it did, the answer is no.'
The court heard Leeds Partnership Homes (LPH) - a body comprising the city council itself and five local housing associations - bought the land from the council last year for between £2.7 and £2.9 million.
Before that, LPH had discussed paying one third of the purchase price - about £900,000 - to the Co-Operative Society for the 'release of its rights' over the land so that the development could go ahead.
But Mr Justice McCullough said that agreement was 'never formalised' and the city council instead used its statutory powers to appropriate the land for planning purposes.
He said the council had been concerned that 'third parties' might also have rights over the land, rendering any agreement with the Co-Operative Society purposeless.
In the end the council had had no 'realistic' option but to appropriate the land or resign itself to the fact that the development would be unlikely to go ahead.
The judge said he would in any case have dismissed the Co- Operative Society's judicial review challenge because of the 'manifestly unreasonable' delay in bringing the case to court.
The Co-Operative Society was ordered to pay the action's legal costs.