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Lawbite: Successful submission that payment wasn’t required

  • United Kingdom
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Real estate litigation


Ramoyle Developments Limited v Scottish Borders Council [2019] CSOH 1

A local authority entered a contract to sell an area of land for regeneration.  Either party to the contract was entitled to withdraw from the sale if the purchasers failed to “submit” an appropriate planning application within 6 months. The planning application had to be submitted to the seller, in its role as planning authority.

The 6 months expired at 23.59 on 22 November 2017. Only two seconds later the authority sought to withdraw. The purchasers had lodged their application via the on-line portal on 20 November but hadn’t yet paid the planning fee, so the authority said the planning application hadn’t been “submitted” on time.

The court looked at what was meant by “submit”. Did that require payment of the fee? Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that the purchasers had received email confirmation that their application was “successfully submitted”, the court agreed that payment of the planning fee was not required for the application to be “submitted”. The online system allowed an application to be submitted before the fee was paid and while the relevant planning regulations require an application to be accompanied by the fee, for the purposes of the contract, online submission in advance of payment was enough and the local authority couldn’t back out.

Key points

  • the court here placed reliance on the use of the word “submit”, which was not defined nor is a term used in the planning regulations.  Whilst the court found in the purchaser’s favour in this matter, where a party is in any doubt as to what is required to comply with an obligation it would be best advised to do all that it could to comply with the obligation or agree with the other party what is required
  • if you want to get out of a contract, or to force someone to perform their obligations, check the requirements precisely
  • while withdrawal for failure to comply with a particular timescale should be done quickly, there’s generally no requirement to do so within a matter of seconds of the deadline expiring