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Manchester Airport Plc v Dutton [2000] QB 133

A contractual licensee has a right to possession.

Facts:

The claimants, Manchester Airport, wished to construct a second runway at the airport. The defendants, a group of environmental protestors, objected to the works and entered neighbouring land owned by the National Trust. They set up camp without a licence or consent in order to obstruct the works. Subsequently, the National Trust granted the Airport a licence to enter the land and fell trees there. The Airport then applied for and obtained an order for possession of the land pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court Ord. 113. The defendants appealed against the grant of the order and the dispute went to the Court of Appeal.

Issues:

The argument against the grant of the order was that it would amount to ejectment.  A licence is a mere personal right, whereas a lease is a proprietary interest in land. A tenant under a lease may sue in trespass. However, a licensee has fewer rights.  The defendants argued that the grant of an order for possession was only available to someone with a title or an estate in land. As a mere licensee, the Airport lacked this.  

Held:

The appeal was dismissed and the order was upheld. Laws LJ stated that just because ejectment was limited to parties with a title or interest to land this did not prevent them granting possession to a mere licensee, if that was necessary in order to give effect to the licensee’s rights under his contract with the licensor. The court held that it made no difference whether the Airport had actually occupied the land before the protestors. 


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