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Housing association and phone masts businesses ordered to pay own way in dispute where legal costs reached £450k

Social landlord London & Quadrant Housing Trust and phone masts firm Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure have each been ordered to pay their own costs after a lengthy dispute that ran up a total bill of £450,000.

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) said in Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd v London & Quadrant Housing Trust (ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS CODE - COSTS) [2020] UKUT 341 that neither side could be considered more successful than the other. L&Q incurred £150,000 in costs and Cornerstone £300,000.

Deputy chamber president Martin Rodger QC, and tribunal judge D Martin noted that the tribunal had in October imposed an agreement on the two which gave Cornerstone rights under the Electronic Communications Code for 10 years on an L&Q block named Maple House at an annual fee of £5,000, and with £3,068 compensation. 

Cornerstone had proposed that L&Q should pay the costs of its interim rights reference and 75% of the costs of the main reference. L&Q said Cornerstone should pay all its costs. 

The tribunal noted: “Both parties sought to bolster their case by criticising the conduct of the other.”

Cornerstone complained it had been put to unnecessary expense in dealing with complex evidence in two substantial reports, while L&Q criticised Cornerstone’s approach to the proceedings “as high-handed and unreasonable, and gave a number of examples of inefficiency, poor behaviour, unwarranted mistrust of L&Q’s motivation, and lack of cooperation”. 

Mr Rodger and Ms Martin said Cornerstone could not claim to be the successful party simply because an agreement had been imposed, as L&Q had not resisted the claim in principle. 

They said: “We do not think we would be justified in treating either party as having succeeded on the disputed terms. 

“In practical terms each achieved most, but not all, of what they wanted to achieve.”  

Looked at in the round the judges did not think “either party can consider itself to have been any more successful than the other. 

“Our conclusion is that no order should be made in respect of the costs of the main reference.” They reached the same decision on the interim rights reference.

Mark Smulian

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