Case details

The Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd (Appellant) v Vauxhall Motors Ltd (Formerly General Motors UK Ltd) (Respondent)

Case ID: UKSC 2018/0116

Case summary

  1. Whether the court can grant relief from forfeiture in respect of a contractual licence relating to the use of land, and if so, in what circumstances.
  2. What the nature and extent are of a riparian landowner’s rights to drain his or her land into the water flowing through it.

Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant, near the Manchester Ship Canal, stands on part of an estate that once drained freely into the River Mersey. Then the Canal was built, cutting the estate off from the river. The Manchester Ship Canal Act 1885 preserved the estate’s drainage rights against "works or operations" by MSCC that would interfere with or prejudicially affect its drainage. In 1962, when Vauxhall was developing the plant. MSCC gave Vauxhall a perpetual licence to drain its land over MSCC’s land into the Canal-, and build and maintain a system of pipes and infrastructure for the purpose. In return Vauxhall had to pay MSCC £50 per year. If Vauxhall missed a payment, MSCC could, having given notice, terminate the licence. Today, the right of drainage is worth up to £440,000 per year. Vauxhall missed a payment due in October 2013, and on 10 March 2014, MSCC terminated the licence.

Judgment appealed

[2018] EWCA Civ 1100



The Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd


Vauxhall Motors Ltd



Lord Kerr, Lord Carnwath, Lady Black, Lord Briggs, Lady Arden

Hearing start date

09 Jul 2019

Hearing finish date

10 Jul 2019

Judgment hand down date

23 Oct 2019

Watch hearing
09 Jul 2019 Morning session Afternoon session
10 Jul 2019 Morning session