A couple whose ‘grand design’ to convert an old granary into a dream home almost came unstuck due to a solicitor’s negligent failure to spot a planning glitch have won damages of just £250 – after a judge ruled that they had not suffered any substantial loss.
The granary had been converted into a two-bedroom cottage in the 1970s but the couple planned to extend it and to convert outbuildings for residential use. They paid the asking price of £575,000 for the property after their solicitor told them that there were no adverse conditions attached to a 1974 planning permission.
That advice was fundamentally wrong in that a condition was in place which meant that the granary could only be used as ancillary accommodation in conjunction with the occupation of the larger house which it had once served. The firm for which the solicitor worked conceded that he had been negligent.
The couple sued the firm for six-figure damages on the basis that, had they been aware of the planning problem, they would either have withdrawn from the purchase or paid a substantially lower price for the property. However, the Court noted that the planning condition had subsequently been lifted by the local authority at the couple’s request. By their own efforts they had successfully mitigated their loss and there was no justification for an award in excess of £250.