Four-year legal battle on Wolverhampton student flats ends

A four-year legal battle which started over a £40 million student village in Wolverhampton has finally come to an end after bosses from the city council successfully defended themselves in the Supreme Court.

A four-year legal battle which started over a £40 million student village in Wolverhampton has finally come to an end after bosses from the city council successfully defended themselves in the Supreme Court.

The decision paves the way for the local authority to once more allow the building of a fourth block at Victoria Halls. It was today welcomed as a “very sound judgment” by city business leader Henry Carver, whose company inadvertently found itself at the centre of the storm.

The Health and Safety Executive first took Wolverhampton City Council to court in 2008 because it had allowed the halls on Wednesfield Road to be built within the blast zone of liquid petroleum gas tanks stored legally at nearby Carvers Building Supplies.

Three blocks, including a main 25-storey structure, have so far been built out of four given permission.

Safety bosses attempted to get this permission revoked after warning in 2008 that the student village would be just 311ft away from the tanks.

The council was found to have broken the law in failing to properly consult the HSE.

Then, during a Court of Appeal case in 2010, judges set a legal precedent by saying councils have the right to consider the cost of compensation to developers when deciding whether or not to revoke permission.

The HSE appealed but today it was revealed the Supreme Court had upheld it. Judges ruled the authority was allowed to balance the sizeable cost of compensation it would have to pay to the owners of Victoria Halls against whether permission was overturned.

In his judgment Lord Hope, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: “Potential liability to compensation cannot be said to be irrelevant merely because it is not fixed and payable at the outset.”

Mr Carver praised the decision. He is now in talks with the council over the future location of the gas tanks. He said: “It would have been very detrimental to many businesses if the council could never take into account the cost but only the risk.”