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RELIEF FROM FORFEITURE OF A LICENCE – WITH LORD DENNING’S SPECTRE IN VIEW

Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

RELIEF FROM FORFEITURE OF A LICENCE – WITH LORD DENNING’S SPECTRE IN VIEW

MJ Cleaver* and PG Turner

Vauxhall Motors v Manchester Ship Canal
In Vauxhall Motors Ltd v Manchester Ship Canal Co Ltd 1 the Supreme Court held that a party was entitled to equitable relief from forfeiture of a licence to use land—uncoupled to any interest in the land—which it had lost following default. The point is novel and will interest commercial actors, given the variety of licences in use—of land, chattels and intellectual property rights. The majority’s statement of the equitable jurisdiction to grant relief from forfeiture was accompanied by a liturgy of English law’s certainty in the fields of business and property, probably to keep the likes of Lord Denning’s “equitable” experiments with licences at bay. The decision is the most important English decision on equitable relief from forfeiture since the leading case, Shiloh Spinners Ltd v Harding . 2

Facts

In 1962, the Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd (MSCC) granted a perpetual licence to Vauxhall to allow for improved drainage from Vauxhall’s car factory site at Ellesmere

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