CQN RTM Co Ltd v Broad Quay North Block Freehold Ltd [2018] UKUT 183 (LC)

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The UT considered the meaning of “structurally detached” for the purposes of section 72 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Act 2002.  It was held that it was not sufficient to demonstrate an absence of a load bearing relationship between two buildings to bring a building within the purview of section 72 of the 2002 Act.  The words “structurally detached” must be given their ordinary meaning.

Facts

The tenants served the relevant notice claiming the right to manage premises at Central Quay North, Broad Quay, Bristol BS1 4AU and 8 Marsh Street, Bristol BS1 4AX (‘the Premises’) under Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the 2002 Act in October 2016.  The respondent freeholder and management company served a counter-notice asserting that there was no right to do so on the basis that the Premises did not form a self-contained building or part of a building.

The buildings in question formed part of a redevelopment undertaken between 2004 and 2009. The redevelopment involved the demolition of existing buildings.  However, there was a central concrete frame Tower Block which was not demolished.

New buildings were constructed on the north and south side of the central Tower Block.

Floors one to seven contain 95 private apartments (knows as Central Quay North) and 30 social housing flats (known as 8 Marsh street). Each building had a separate entrance, Broad Quay and Marsh Street respectively.

A ramp from Marsh Street runs down to an underground car park. The car park is mostly underneath the central Tower and the South Block. However, part of the ramp is situated under the Premises (which are constructed to the north of the Central Tower Block), which at that point is supported by concrete pillars, two of which rise from the central kerb that separates the ‘up’ and ‘down’ lanes of the ramp. There are water storage tanks and a pump in the basement area. The residential tenants do not have the use of the car park.

Issues

In light of the location and nature of the ramp, were the Premises “structurally detached” under the meaning of section 72(2) of the 2002 Act?

First Instance

It was held that whether or not a building is structurally detached is a, “mixed matter of fact and law”.  It was held that it must go beyond, “mere touching” and thereafter it was a question of fact as to whether the connection between two buildings can be properly described as “structural”.

It was accepted by the Tribunal that there was no load-bearing connection between the Premises and the central Tower Block.  However, it did not follow from this that the Premises were structurally detached.  The Respondent’s argument that the decorative façade running across both buildings rendered them structurally attached failed.

Nevertheless, it was held that the building were not structurally detached on the basis that, “there is no single visible division between them…the connection is more than mere touching”.  It was therefore held that the section 72 of the 2002 Act did not apply to the Premises.

The FTT then clarified its decision, explaining that, during its visual it found that the North Block and Central Tower were not merely touching and that the integrated connection between the two buildings went beyond that.  This amounted to structural attachment.

Decision on appeal 

The Upper Tribunal (UT) upheld the decision of the FTT.  It was held that the words, “structurally detached” ought to be given their natural meaning.  It was therefore neither necessary nor helpful to attempt to imbue those words with a more specific meaning such as, “having no load-bearing connection”.

The UT reaffirmed the decision of the FTT that something beyond touching was required.  The UT defined “structural” as, “appertaining or relating to the essential or core fabric of the building”.  The process to be followed was a) to identify the premises, b) to identify which part of the premises are attached to some other building and c) to form a view whether the nature and degree of that attachment, the relevant premises can be properly described as structurally detached.

On the facts, it was held that the FTT had applied the correct legal test and was entitled to make a finding of fact that the premises were not structurally detached on the basis of its view of the premises and the adjoining building. The FTT took the view that this was not a case merely of two adjoining walls touching, with no structural connection between them. The degree of attachment in the instant matter went beyond the mere ‘weathering features’, which were in issue in No.1 Deansgate (Residential) Ltd v No.1 Deansgate RTM Co Ltd [2013] UKUT 580 (LC). 

Philip Rainey QC appeared for the Appellant. 

Jonathan Upton appeared for the Respondents.