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Property rights or laws of the jungle?

Legal experts, property developers and lovers of liberty ought to be eagerly waiting for the outcome of a key US court ruling on what is known as the law of eminent domain. The ruling could kill off the practice in which property developers, in alliance with local politicians and bureaucrats, can push property owners from their possessions, seize the land and re-develop it, usually in the hope of grabbing higher tax revenues than was the case before.

I am not an expert on the fine print of this law as it applies in the United States, and readers ought to look at works such as the excellent book by Richard Epstein on the subject. What is clear, however, is that for years Americans, like Britons, Frenchmen, Germans and others, have been living in a world increasingly resembling the law of the jungle rather that of a liberal civil order when it comes to the treatment of property.

I honestly do not know how the ruling will turn out. Essentially, contestants in the case are arguing against the idea that eminent domain can be exercised on commercial grounds. Hard-line defenders of property will, of course, argue that eminent domain does not exist even if the supposed use of property is for something required for ‘public use’, such as a port, military airfield or highway.

Here is a thought – this ought to be a classic ‘left-wing’ sort of issue. It is actually a good issue for libertarians to try to use to convince socialist types that property rights, understood in their fullest sense, are a protection for the weak and vulnerable, not the other way round. The old man in his shabby cottage who refuses to sell up to Big Gleaming Corp. is as much a hero of the free market order as any Ayn Rand character or 19th Century industrialist in a frock coat.

Side observation: I would be interested to know if the hugely loss-making Channel Tunnel link could have been built without compulsory purchase. Somehow I very much doubt it.

Thanks to the excellent Anger Management blog for the pointer.

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23 comments to Property rights or laws of the jungle?

  • Verity

    By coincidence, Jonathan, Melanie Phillips has a piece that is tangentially apt about property law (and ‘Human Rights Act’). (Link)

    I realise this is about Britain and you were writing about the US, but Melanie is talking about the destruction of English Common Law, on which American law is also based, as we know.

  • I lived in Peckham at the time the Chunnel link was being planned, and it was a classic example of why the government shouldn’t do things. I actually think that compulsory purchase is necessary (or fairly vital, at least) from time to time. Railways, for instance, don’t have the option of being as windy as roads. But, Jesus, how the government screwed it up. Here’s a brief resume of what happened to us.

    The link went directly under our house, and that is in no way a figure of speech: I mean directly. Had we lived on the other side of the road, we would have been inside the designated compulsory purchase zone, and our house would have been bought for a small fortune by the state. On our side of the road, nothing. Officially, the link was going to go too deep for the vibrations to affect us. Over on the other side of the road, seven or eight metres away, the link was going to be so close to the surface that the vibrations necessitated buying people’s houses sited two hundred metres from the route. Hmm.

    This was only one of the many proposed routes, but the state started buying up houses at top prices anyway. They kept putting off the decision about which route was to be chosen. Unsurprisingly, with that decision pending for years, planning blight descended on our area. Hundreds of people moved out, selling their houses for a fortune to the state. Everyone else had a pretty much unsellable house. Totally screwed up the area’s community.

    A few years later, they finally made the decision: it was to be another route. So the state had to sell back hundreds of houses that they didn’t need after all, which flooded the market, which depressed prices, which meant that they made back only a small portion of the taxpayers’ millions they’d spent. And, of course, flooding the market with cheap properties continued to depress the market for everyone else.

    A hell of a lot of money was spent, but it’s difficult to work out what it was spent on.

  • I wouldn’t be too hard on property developers – at least not in the UK. Here it works like this:

    If a property developer wants to build houses, it is forced to build a load of “social housing” for the State’s favoured groups – aka “key workers” – a moronic phrase if ever there was one – as a condition for planning permission. Sometimes as much as 30% of a private development must consist of subsidised housing for State functionaries (police, fire, nurses etc).

    This completely screws up the profits of the property developer – with the result that unless something is done, far fewer houses get built than would otherwise be the case on a free market. This at a time when the Government is moaning that not enough houses are being built by the mean old private sector.

    So to prevent the disaster-in-the-making which it has created in the first place, the State then grants compulsory purchase orders (eminent domain) in favour of the developer so that the developer can buy the land more cheaply (aka “steal it”) and so make up some of the profits that it has had stolen from it as a result of the stupid social housing it has been forced to build.

    You couldn’t make it up.

  • toolkien

    try to use to convince socialist types that property rights, understood in their fullest sense, are a protection for the weak and vulnerable, not the other way round. The old man in his shabby cottage who refuses to sell up to Big Gleaming Corp. is as much a hero of the free market order as any Ayn Rand character or 19th Century industrialist in a frock coat.

    A couple things,

    It is my experience that for all but the hard left, there is a sliding scale between the old man and the Ayn Rand character (presuming it is one of the ‘big-wigs’ in her books). What applies to one doesn’t apply to the other. I’ve had many a row with ‘progressives’ who presumably detest business, but during the give and take it is discovered many only dislike ‘Big Business’, small business is OK (presumably those owned by protected by special class treatments and are dependent on small business loans etc etc). So property rights are only for those who have little or nothing. Those who have ‘more than their share’ (those who likely got it through spurious schemes and institutional misallocations) have a less strict definition of property rights.

    Taking the liberty for a 90* turn on the subject, but property rights to protect the smallest among is precisely why there is said to be property rights in intangibles as well. If an author or an artist did not have property rights in their creation (and therefore contractually restrict its use – e.g. licensing) then those who already had capital could simply outmarket/out produce the creator. At the very least capitalists would have to pay to acquire rights to exploit it. Without such recognition, the creator would be edged out of its own market. It just so happens that most sell out contractually one way or another, and the rights to hot properties ends up in the hands of major players anyway, but at least creators had the initial option of how best to market their creations. But as it stands many people want to destroy such rights under some sort of ‘free market’ grounds.

  • There are two main reasons why this case is generating so much interest:

    1. It’s been roughly 50 years since the Supreme Court last addressed the issue.

    2. The state supreme court that really started the emasculation of property rights — Michigan, with the “Poletown” case — recently reversed itself completely, giving the U.S. Supreme Court a foothold with which to federalize the return to true property rights.

    Will the Supreme Court Extend the Poletown Reversal?(Link)

  • anonymous coward

    The first case that ever came to my attention of eminent domain serving private enterprise was the French government’s forcing little potato farmers to sell their land to the Republic for pennies, while the Republic turned around and sold it to Disney (for the amusement park) for big bucks.

    This method is only beginning to catch on in the States, and as you note, is being fought. I like to think that ornery American individualism will put a stop to it.

    I have seen a Corps of Engineers racket that no one seems to be able to stop: eminent domain people’s farms for a reservoir, decide that that some of the farms aren’t needed after all, and then sell them as enormous parcels that the original owners can’t afford to buy, but lakeside developers can.

  • Here’s a big case on spot-zoning in Mississippi, where doctors are still revered as gods:

    Drews v. City of Hattiesburg. I had the distinct pleasure to work on this case before Larry Gunn and I parted ways.

  • flaime

    In the US, property rights are only good when they are the property rights of the wealthy. The property rights of the poor “interfere with econimic development” which means that rich people are blocked from building luxury aparment buildings or factories or shopping malls over poor people’s homes and forcing them out to sleep in the streets.

  • limberwulf

    nice propoganda flaime, all emotion, no facts. You picked the wrong crowd to sell that to.

  • Verity

    Limberwulf – V good!

    If anyone reads the link to Melanie Phillips that I posted, they will see that socialist judges are blithely destroying laws passed by Parliament and allowing gypsies to put up houses anywhere they feel like – including land on which development permission has been refused to non-members of privileged minority groups.

  • flaime

    Limberwulf:
    The entire Poletown decision was about that issue. And until the supreme court says that eminent domain cannot be exercised for economic development, what I said will remain true.

  • dionysus

    If anyone is interested…

    Walter Block took on Epstein in a debate regarding whether “we really need eminent domain” this past May.

    Online here – http://www.mises.org/blog/archives/002009.asp

  • This is an issue I have been wrestling with(Link) on Transport Blog for over two years. I am just about coming round to the view that we shouldn’t have compulsory purchase. Why? Partly because there are examples of roads and other links being built without compulsory puchase. Partly, because I think there are ways of doing it and partly, because when you give the state an inch it takes a mile. Better to have never have given them the inch in the first place.

    Incidentally, it’s not just the CTRL that was built with compulsory purchase. The same applies to all of the UK’s main railways. The exception are very few and (I think) are almost all cases where all the land was owned by one man.

    Following on from what Squander Two said. I remember an ex-BR man telling me how BR quietly bought up land (without compulsory purchase) in the late 1980s in anticipation of the CTRL. He explained that the idea was to avoid the rows you get with compulsory purchase where the compensation is usually lousy. I wonder if this is the other side of the coin he was describing

  • Jerry Nutter

    I’m sorry, but you’ll have to explain what the heck eminent domain is.

    I studied law for one year as part of an undergraduate course, and two years as a postgraduate course, and I’ve never heard of eminent domain. That either says I didn’t read widely enough and study hard enough (quite possible) or eminent domain is kinda… obscure.

    An explanation would be good.

  • I dunno. I fear that the sterotypical Toynbee-ite left would condemn holding out against compulsory purchase as selfishness, rampant individualism, abrogation of collective duty, acting against the rights of society, etc.

  • Jerry:

    Eminent domain (known as “compulsory purchase” in the UK) is the power of the State granted by statute to expropriate private land for “the public good”. Compensation of some sort is usually payable; though the amount varies according to the particular statute. In general it will be less than the seller would have required to be paid on the market (otherwise the power would not be required).

    In the 19th century, the power was usually exercised for the purpose of acquiring land for civil engineering projects such as roads and railways. These days, the power is more usually exercised on behalf of large commercial and residential property developers (see my comment above).

    The objection to ED is that if somebody wants to build a road, railway or property development and they need to buy out a land-owner, they should purchase the land they need on the market just like everybody else. If the land-owner does not wish to sell, why should they be forced to? Arguments for ED usually invoke “the public good” – a nebulous and slippery notion that can be (and is) used to justify almost any State interference with property rights and the market.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Nice comments. Another thought is the ED laws are bad because they encourage corruption. Think about how the existence of ED can encourage property developers and the like to bribe politicians.

    It is interesting that environmentalists have also not made much of a fuss about this, yet many of the sort of projects they hate are made possible through ED. You’d think they would be raising a fuss about it.

  • Arguments for ED usually invoke “the public good” – a nebulous and slippery notion that can be (and is) used to justify almost any State interference with property rights and the market.

    Actually, most defenses of ED/CPO rest on the “hold out” problem. Typically the problem isn’t acquiring the land at a market rate but what happens when the last pieces of the jigsaw are needed to complete a parcel of land for, say, a road or railway. Landowners who hold out until the end are in a much stronger position than those who sell at the ‘market rate” at the beginning – that’s where you get the term “ransom strip“.

  • Richard Garner

    There are great rows regarding eminent domain up here in Nottingham, where there ar plans to expand the tramlines through people’s gardens and houses.

  • There was a movie made about these type of laws in Australia a while back. It’s a comedy called “The Castle”.

    Storyline in a nutshell: Government tries to force working class family to sell them their house in order to expand the Airport, family takes them to the Australian Supreme Court. Sappy, but funny nevertheless.

  • David

    I have practical experience of compulsory purchase in the UK. It is extremely harrowing. There was a public meeting where the council undertook to make every effort to protect the businesses of those affected. The period that the order stays ‘alive’ for, is three years. Two days before that the ‘notice to treat’ arrived. This shows that the council mean business, and negotiations are supposed to have already started. In my case they had not, and when ‘notice to enter’ arrived, which gave me 18 working days to clear out a business that had been in operation for 25 years, including Christmas. I had a solicitor and a surveyor, whose expenses would be paid by the council.
    I begged for discussions to start, but no-one from the council would talk, a meeting was set up, then cancelled , a meeting was held with the council’s surveyor, who had no authority to offer anything. He told me that there was a possibility that my area would be excluded from the cpo. Christmas came and went, and my stock of classic cars and spares was valued at over £100 000, withno allowance for rarity.
    There was no negotiation, and four weeks later the council faxed my solicitor, who in turn faxed me that the council were coming 40 minutes later, and that I had to relinquish ownership of my stock, and all equipment. I faced the council on my own with a video camera on my shouder. I was offered £18 000 promised to be paid the next day. Council workers (roadworkers, grave diggers, gardeners etc) bagged up my stock, making no plan of the store, and mixing parts randomly, as they were taken from the shelves. Some cars were fork lift trucked onto a low loader. My legal representatives did not attend. The parts were put in a council industrial unit, and the cars in a compound. I had no access. There were a couple of meetings, but the council did not accept that they had extinguished the business. They did not pay the £18 000, either.
    I tried to find new premises, and eight months later had a property which needed work to be made the equivalent of what I had. The council advanced an interim payment of £10 000.
    The building was not secure, and was burgled of my tools, but the council told me to collect my goods, or pay £1 500 (one thousand five hundred pounds) a month rent. I could not afford it. The spares were taken from the unit with one hour to spare, but the council had forbidden me to store cars outside the new building, so I had to pay rent for them, or lose them (34 cars).
    I had my life threatened as I interrupted five men, about to break in. I engaged a security patrol, but they had their car sledgehammered (glass in the eyes), and were told to stay away : they did.
    The solicitor and the surveyor did nothing to pursue a claim, and two years and two months after the council took possession, they told me to write my own claim. I did, and offered it to each for comment. The solicitor ignored my request, the surveyor told me that it was not a claim because the value of items was not quantified. I told him to enter the figures that he held ( he had receipts, and estimates). He delivered them to me, and wrote to say he had withdrawn. I requested another interim payment from the council, and they paid another£5 000. My business could not re-start.
    I opened negotiations direct with the council’s surveyor, and he said that I had sacked the solicitor, and surveyor. In the returned receipts I found a claim for the services of a barrister on the solicitor’s billhead : I had paid the barrister, but the receipt was not made out to me.
    I said to the council’s surveyor that I would go to the Lands Tribunal in London, but he said, ‘well, it’s a bit of a nonsense, really, even when you win, you lose.
    Attempts to negotiate were futile, the titles were changed for an amount of money that remained the same. New items were allowed, others previously allowed were dis-allowed.
    I initiated steps to go to the Lands Tribunal, and the council tried to have my claim struck out as frivolous and vexatious. Within two minutes this was dismissed. The council then said that they had not stopped me from storing my cars outside, but I showed the letter that they had sent.
    I was advised by the ‘member’ (of the Lands Tribunal) to obtain the services of another solicitor and surveyor, which I did, to be paid for by the council. They put in a sealed offer to the tribunal, to be opened after the hearing, which, as soon as they had made the offer put the charges of the two professionals onto me. They are very seriously expensive. They told me that their costs would be £25 000, and my valid claim over £120 000. The solicitor described the council’s offer as derisory. He was a lecturer in law, and the writer of about half of all the books available on compulsory purchase, and normally worked with the surveyor.
    We went to the Tribunal, which in this case was a member of the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors. He had no qualifications to do with law.
    It was a two day hearing during which the other side based their argument on a case that was not the same as mine, and this was confirmed by the member.
    The decision came out eight weeks later, whilst my solicitor was on holiday, and I read it in the local newspaper. It was a disaster : the decision virtually dismissed everything that we had claimed for, and whilst we had thought that the hearing had gone in our favour, the result was the opposite. The figure allowed fell neatly below that of the sealed bid from the council, which meant that I was down for all the costs :crippling.
    ‘In the interests of justice’ my solicitor queried the decision ; the member had introduced another case, not discussed at the hearing by anyone, against the rules of the Lands Tribunal. The case that he had introduced, and based his decision upon, was significantly different from mine, and not relevant.
    An amendment followed acknowledging this, but despite everything, the member would not change the value of the award.
    28 days are allowed in which to appeal, but the letter was posted three weeks after it was dated.
    This was complained about, but the Lands Tribunal would not change it but said that the matter could be stated to the appeals court. (This is the highest court in England)
    At this time the solicitor said that he would not represent me, because he said I owed him money. His global price, and my redline was £25 000, and I had paid £42 000, not at all happily.
    I continued myself. Forms were filled in, and the first exchanges took place. This was for permission to appeal. At the next point a letter said that the Court would decide whether it would be with or without a hearing, and that no communication should be attempted to find out which. I waited, and the next letter that came started ‘As you know….’ and went on to say that the Court had reached its decision. I telephoned to find out what this meant, and was told that because I did not attend the hearing, tha appeal had been struck out. I was horrified. They said that they had sent a ‘first class’ letter, which had advised of the date. ‘First class’, is not first class, it is just a name. It is not guaranteed, has no proof of posting, nor of delivery. When they sent me a copy, it did not request an acknowledgement of its arrival, so according to what they say, they would normally set up a hearing without the confirmation that the appellant knew about it. The letter also referred for the first time to the Court’s website, where it was possible to check on forthcoming hearings : no chance.
    The position that I am in today is that they want another £200 for me to apply for their decision to strike out my application to appeal, to be set aside. Effectively this is asking for permission for permission to appeal.
    Stop, and I lose everything : in the jungle I would stand a chance.

  • David

    I have practical experience of compulsory purchase in the UK. It is extremely harrowing. There was a public meeting where the council undertook to make every effort to protect the businesses of those affected. The period that the order stays ‘alive’ for, is three years. Two days before that the ‘notice to treat’ arrived. This shows that the council mean business, and negotiations are supposed to have already started. In my case they had not, and when ‘notice to enter’ arrived, which gave me 18 working days to clear out a business that had been in operation for 25 years, including Christmas. I had a solicitor and a surveyor, whose expenses would be paid by the council.
    I begged for discussions to start, but no-one from the council would talk, a meeting was set up, then cancelled , a meeting was held with the council’s surveyor, who had no authority to offer anything. He told me that there was a possibility that my area would be excluded from the cpo. Christmas came and went, and my stock of classic cars and spares was valued at over £100 000, withno allowance for rarity.
    There was no negotiation, and four weeks later the council faxed my solicitor, who in turn faxed me that the council were coming 40 minutes later, and that I had to relinquish ownership of my stock, and all equipment. I faced the council on my own with a video camera on my shouder. I was offered £18 000 promised to be paid the next day. Council workers (roadworkers, grave diggers, gardeners etc) bagged up my stock, making no plan of the store, and mixing parts randomly, as they were taken from the shelves. Some cars were fork lift trucked onto a low loader. My legal representatives did not attend. The parts were put in a council industrial unit, and the cars in a compound. I had no access. There were a couple of meetings, but the council did not accept that they had extinguished the business. They did not pay the £18 000, either.
    I tried to find new premises, and eight months later had a property which needed work to be made the equivalent of what I had. The council advanced an interim payment of £10 000.
    The building was not secure, and was burgled of my tools, but the council told me to collect my goods, or pay £1 500 (one thousand five hundred pounds) a month rent. I could not afford it. The spares were taken from the unit with one hour to spare, but the council had forbidden me to store cars outside the new building, so I had to pay rent for them, or lose them (34 cars).
    I had my life threatened as I interrupted five men, about to break in. I engaged a security patrol, but they had their car sledgehammered (glass in the eyes), and were told to stay away : they did.
    The solicitor and the surveyor did nothing to pursue a claim, and two years and two months after the council took possession, they told me to write my own claim. I did, and offered it to each for comment. The solicitor ignored my request, the surveyor told me that it was not a claim because the value of items was not quantified. I told him to enter the figures that he held ( he had receipts, and estimates). He delivered them to me, and wrote to say he had withdrawn. I requested another interim payment from the council, and they paid another£5 000. My business could not re-start.
    I opened negotiations direct with the council’s surveyor, and he said that I had sacked the solicitor, and surveyor. In the returned receipts I found a claim for the services of a barrister on the solicitor’s billhead : I had paid the barrister, but the receipt was not made out to me.
    I said to the council’s surveyor that I would go to the Lands Tribunal in London, but he said, ‘well, it’s a bit of a nonsense, really, even when you win, you lose.
    Attempts to negotiate were futile, the titles were changed for an amount of money that remained the same. New items were allowed, others previously allowed were dis-allowed.
    I initiated steps to go to the Lands Tribunal, and the council tried to have my claim struck out as frivolous and vexatious. Within two minutes this was dismissed. The council then said that they had not stopped me from storing my cars outside, but I showed the letter that they had sent.
    I was advised by the ‘member’ (of the Lands Tribunal) to obtain the services of another solicitor and surveyor, which I did, to be paid for by the council. They put in a sealed offer to the tribunal, to be opened after the hearing, which, as soon as they had made the offer put the charges of the two professionals onto me. They are very seriously expensive. They told me that their costs would be £25 000, and my valid claim over £120 000. The solicitor described the council’s offer as derisory. He was a lecturer in law, and the writer of about half of all the books available on compulsory purchase, and normally worked with the surveyor.
    We went to the Tribunal, which in this case was a member of the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors. He had no qualifications to do with law.
    It was a two day hearing during which the other side based their argument on a case that was not the same as mine, and this was confirmed by the member.
    The decision came out eight weeks later, whilst my solicitor was on holiday, and I read it in the local newspaper. It was a disaster : the decision virtually dismissed everything that we had claimed for, and whilst we had thought that the hearing had gone in our favour, the result was the opposite. The figure allowed fell neatly below that of the sealed bid from the council, which meant that I was down for all the costs :crippling.
    ‘In the interests of justice’ my solicitor queried the decision ; the member had introduced another case, not discussed at the hearing by anyone, against the rules of the Lands Tribunal. The case that he had introduced, and based his decision upon, was significantly different from mine, and not relevant.
    An amendment followed acknowledging this, but despite everything, the member would not change the value of the award.
    28 days are allowed in which to appeal, but the letter was posted three weeks after it was dated.
    This was complained about, but the Lands Tribunal would not change it but said that the matter could be stated to the appeals court. (This is the highest court in England)
    At this time the solicitor said that he would not represent me, because he said I owed him money. His global price, and my redline was £25 000, and I had paid £42 000, not at all happily.
    I continued myself. Forms were filled in, and the first exchanges took place. This was for permission to appeal. At the next point a letter said that the Court would decide whether it would be with or without a hearing, and that no communication should be attempted to find out which. I waited, and the next letter that came started ‘As you know….’ and went on to say that the Court had reached its decision. I telephoned to find out what this meant, and was told that because I did not attend the hearing, tha appeal had been struck out. I was horrified. They said that they had sent a ‘first class’ letter, which had advised of the date. ‘First class’, is not first class, it is just a name. It is not guaranteed, has no proof of posting, nor of delivery. When they sent me a copy, it did not request an acknowledgement of its arrival, so according to what they say, they would normally set up a hearing without the confirmation that the appellant knew about it. The letter also referred for the first time to the Court’s website, where it was possible to check on forthcoming hearings : no chance.
    The position that I am in today is that they want another £200 for me to apply for their decision to strike out my application to appeal, to be set aside. Effectively this is asking for permission for permission to appeal.
    Stop, and I lose everything : in the jungle I would stand a chance.

  • David

    I have practical experience of compulsory purchase in the UK. It is extremely harrowing. There was a public meeting where the council undertook to make every effort to protect the businesses of those affected. The period that the order stays ‘alive’ for, is three years. Two days before that the ‘notice to treat’ arrived. This shows that the council mean business, and negotiations are supposed to have already started. In my case they had not, and when ‘notice to enter’ arrived, which gave me 18 working days to clear out a business that had been in operation for 25 years, including Christmas. I had a solicitor and a surveyor, whose expenses would be paid by the council.
    I begged for discussions to start, but no-one from the council would talk, a meeting was set up, then cancelled , a meeting was held with the council’s surveyor, who had no authority to offer anything. He told me that there was a possibility that my area would be excluded from the cpo. Christmas came and went, and my stock of classic cars and spares was valued at over £100 000, withno allowance for rarity.
    There was no negotiation, and four weeks later the council faxed my solicitor, who in turn faxed me that the council were coming 40 minutes later, and that I had to relinquish ownership of my stock, and all equipment. I faced the council on my own with a video camera on my shouder. I was offered £18 000 promised to be paid the next day. Council workers (roadworkers, grave diggers, gardeners etc) bagged up my stock, making no plan of the store, and mixing parts randomly, as they were taken from the shelves. Some cars were fork lift trucked onto a low loader. My legal representatives did not attend. The parts were put in a council industrial unit, and the cars in a compound. I had no access. There were a couple of meetings, but the council did not accept that they had extinguished the business. They did not pay the £18 000, either.
    I tried to find new premises, and eight months later had a property which needed work to be made the equivalent of what I had. The council advanced an interim payment of £10 000.
    The building was not secure, and was burgled of my tools, but the council told me to collect my goods, or pay £1 500 (one thousand five hundred pounds) a month rent. I could not afford it. The spares were taken from the unit with one hour to spare, but the council had forbidden me to store cars outside the new building, so I had to pay rent for them, or lose them (34 cars).
    I had my life threatened as I interrupted five men, about to break in. I engaged a security patrol, but they had their car sledgehammered (glass in the eyes), and were told to stay away : they did.
    The solicitor and the surveyor did nothing to pursue a claim, and two years and two months after the council took possession, they told me to write my own claim. I did, and offered it to each for comment. The solicitor ignored my request, the surveyor told me that it was not a claim because the value of items was not quantified. I told him to enter the figures that he held ( he had receipts, and estimates). He delivered them to me, and wrote to say he had withdrawn. I requested another interim payment from the council, and they paid another£5 000. My business could not re-start.
    I opened negotiations direct with the council’s surveyor, and he said that I had sacked the solicitor, and surveyor. In the returned receipts I found a claim for the services of a barrister on the solicitor’s billhead : I had paid the barrister, but the receipt was not made out to me.
    I said to the council’s surveyor that I would go to the Lands Tribunal in London, but he said, ‘well, it’s a bit of a nonsense, really, even when you win, you lose.
    Attempts to negotiate were futile, the titles were changed for an amount of money that remained the same. New items were allowed, others previously allowed were dis-allowed.
    I initiated steps to go to the Lands Tribunal, and the council tried to have my claim struck out as frivolous and vexatious. Within two minutes this was dismissed. The council then said that they had not stopped me from storing my cars outside, but I showed the letter that they had sent.
    I was advised by the ‘member’ (of the Lands Tribunal) to obtain the services of another solicitor and surveyor, which I did, to be paid for by the council. They put in a sealed offer to the tribunal, to be opened after the hearing, which, as soon as they had made the offer put the charges of the two professionals onto me. They are very seriously expensive. They told me that their costs would be £25 000, and my valid claim over £120 000. The solicitor described the council’s offer as derisory. He was a lecturer in law, and the writer of about half of all the books available on compulsory purchase, and normally worked with the surveyor.
    We went to the Tribunal, which in this case was a member of the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors. He had no qualifications to do with law.
    It was a two day hearing during which the other side based their argument on a case that was not the same as mine, and this was confirmed by the member.
    The decision came out eight weeks later, whilst my solicitor was on holiday, and I read it in the local newspaper. It was a disaster : the decision virtually dismissed everything that we had claimed for, and whilst we had thought that the hearing had gone in our favour, the result was the opposite. The figure allowed fell neatly below that of the sealed bid from the council, which meant that I was down for all the costs :crippling.
    ‘In the interests of justice’ my solicitor queried the decision ; the member had introduced another case, not discussed at the hearing by anyone, against the rules of the Lands Tribunal. The case that he had introduced, and based his decision upon, was significantly different from mine, and not relevant.
    An amendment followed acknowledging this, but despite everything, the member would not change the value of the award.
    28 days are allowed in which to appeal, but the letter was posted three weeks after it was dated.
    This was complained about, but the Lands Tribunal would not change it but said that the matter could be stated to the appeals court. (This is the highest court in England)
    At this time the solicitor said that he would not represent me, because he said I owed him money. His global price, and my redline was £25 000, and I had paid £42 000, not at all happily.
    I continued myself. Forms were filled in, and the first exchanges took place. This was for permission to appeal. At the next point a letter said that the Court would decide whether it would be with or without a hearing, and that no communication should be attempted to find out which. I waited, and the next letter that came started ‘As you know….’ and went on to say that the Court had reached its decision. I telephoned to find out what this meant, and was told that because I did not attend the hearing, tha appeal had been struck out. I was horrified. They said that they had sent a ‘first class’ letter, which had advised of the date. ‘First class’, is not first class, it is just a name. It is not guaranteed, has no proof of posting, nor of delivery. When they sent me a copy, it did not request an acknowledgement of its arrival, so according to what they say, they would normally set up a hearing without the confirmation that the appellant knew about it. The letter also referred for the first time to the Court’s website, where it was possible to check on forthcoming hearings : no chance.
    The position that I am in today is that they want another £200 for me to apply for their decision to strike out my application to appeal, to be set aside. Effectively this is asking for permission for permission to appeal.
    Stop, and I lose everything : in the jungle I would stand a chance.