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Hounslow LBC v Twickenham Garden Developments Ltd [1971] Ch 233

EQUITY – MANDATORY INJUNCTIONS WHICH ASSIST A BREACH OF CONTRACT

Facts

A local council had contracted with the defendants for construction work on their land. This contract included a license allowing the defendants to access the land. The council later tried to end the contract, but the defendant claimed the contract was still active and refused to leave. The council sought an interlocutory injunction to remove the defendants from the land.

Issues

Contractual licenses can be revoked at will, but this does not mean that a claimant can necessarily regain possession of their land by themselves without the aid of a court remedy such as an injunction. The issue in this case, was whether the court would grant an interlocutory injunction to expel the defendant from the land.

Held

The court declined to grant an injunction.

Megarry J stated that equity would not assist a party in breaking a contract, even if that contract is not specifically enforceable. The contract here contained an implied term that the license granted would not be revoked, meaning that to grant the injunction would put the council in breach of contract.

The court noted that to grant an injunction with a ‘mandatory’ quality (one which requires positive action) at the interlocutory stage, the court must have a high degree of assurance that the injunction will turn out to have been correctly granted at trial. The council had failed to demonstrate with sufficient certainty that it was entitled to terminate the contract, meaning that there was too great a risk that the injunction would be wrongly granted and equity would have assisted the breach of a contract. For this reason, it would be inappropriate to grant an injunction removing the defendant from the land.


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