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premature erection doesn't stand up in court

12 August 2010

What does ‘on completion of this agreement’ mean?

That’s the question that the high court had to decide, faced with a broadband business who had erected electronic communications equipment on the rooftops of certain council properties, including the Council’s own City Hall building.

The business was relying on a provision of a binding memorandum of understanding that allowed it access to council rooftops for this purpose for a period of 15 years, such access to be granted…’on completion of this agreement’. Was the licence enforcable?

Not according to Mr Justice Roth in City of Westminster v Urban Wimax who took into account the fact that a pilot scheme was clearly anticipated under the agreement and that the implicit intention was that the licence only be effective if this pilot scheme had proved sucessful. Urban Wimax were seeking to take advantage of the poor drafting of the memorandum of understanding to suggest that the licence took effect from execution of the agreement.

The council were perhaps lucky here not to have been lumbered with a licence that took effect too early and by the common sense approach of the court, but it is a warning where a pilot scheme is planned for a project (which often include the scantest legal wording), to check the wording of any licences granted, so as not to be embarrassed in court.

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