Expert Witness and Dispute Resolution

Expert Witness and Dispute Resolution

AspinallVerdi has a senior team of Chartered Surveyors (Registered Valuers) and Chartered Town Planners who are used to acting as expert witnesses for planning appeals and examinations in public (EIPs) as well as commercial disputes. We have provided evidence at both real-life and virtual EIPs. We have qualified Meditators and High Court witness experience in the team.

Expert Witness

We regularly support Local Planning Authorities for Local Plan and CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) examinations in public.  This is most likely the cumulation of a Local Plan or CIL area-wide viability assessment.  We have supported numerous Authorities at EIP including, inter alia: Northampton Borough Council; South Oxfordshire District Council; Vale of White Horse District Council; Central Bedfordshire Council; South Lakeland District Council; Craven District Council; Harborough District Council; London Borough of Sutton; West Oxfordshire District Council amongst others.

Planning Appeals

We have provided expert witness services on numerous planning appeals – mainly in respect of viability matters. These often comprise complex valuation and appraisal disputes which impacts land value and costs. We provide initial expert advice and proofs of evidence and rebuttals.

AspinallVerdi was retained by South Oxfordshire District Council in respect of viability matters for an appeal by Inspired Villages for a continuing care retirement community care village of up to 133 units in Sonning Common.  We worked with the Appellants viability consultant and SODC to negotiate a satisfactory settlement which meant that viability matters were not required to be heard at the appeal.

AspinallVerdi was retained North Kesteven District Council to provide economic viability advice, heritage and expert witness services in respect of the planning application and appeal inquiry for redevelopment of the ‘central core’ element of the site of the former Rauceby Hospital, Sleaford.  The application site comprised the final phase of the Rauceby Hospital development. The original proposal for the central core comprised the refurbishment and restoration of the former hospital buildings to dwellings along with limited new build residential within the surrounding grounds (totalling 59 units). However, the developer argued that this scheme was no longer viable and sought consent to demolish the buildings and redevelop the site for 106 new build units.  We presented our evidence under cross-examination at the inquiry over two days.

Mediation and Dispute Resolution

Planning, development and regeneration is a complex process and we appreciate that sometimes commercial disputes can arise.  Our extensive experience of project delivery enables us to help settle disputes where they arise.  Mediation is now an integral part of the pre-trial process and can lead to successful cost-effective outcomes as opposed to litigation.  Ben Aspinall is an RICS Accredited Mediator.  

What is Meditation?

Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding and private dispute resolution process in which a neutral person helps the parties reach a negotiated settlement.  The introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) in 1999 transformed mediation into an integral part of the pre-trial process.  It is now accepted that all litigation lawyers must consider if mediation is an appropriate method of resolving their client’s dispute. Costs sanctions have been imposed against parties who decline mediation.

Voluntary - Mediation cannot take place unless the parties agree to enter the process.  Mediation is not possible without the participation of all parties, and will cease if one party walks out (which they are free to do at any time).

Non-binding – Mediation is non-binding until the point of settlement.  A mediator has no authority to make a binding determination, so if the parties cannot agree, there will be no settlement and the case will proceed to the next stage in the litigation process. However, if settlement is reached, the agreed terms will form part of an enforceable contract.

Highly successful - Even if the mediation does not end in a settlement on the day, it can act as a catalyst to settlement after the event. There is evidence to suggest that many cases that do not settle on the day, settle shortly after.

Without Prejudice - The mediation process is “without prejudice”.  Therefore, parties can disclose information, express views, make suggestions or offer concessions, safe in the knowledge that this will not preclude them arguing a different position should the matter proceed to trial. Similarly, a party is free to refuse offers made in mediation without the risk of this being held against them. Private and Confidential – The process is also strictly confidential.  The confidential nature of mediation negotiations stands in clear contrast to the courtroom, which is in public and potentially extremely embarrassing. 

RICS ACRE Mediation Accreditation

RICS ACRE mediation accreditation enables the mediation of complex disputes to the highest standards across land, property, construction and infrastructure.

ACRE is a robust approach to mediation based on four main principles:

Analytical - Helping parties to analyse the circumstances, law, evidence, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their case to empower them to make pragmatic and viable settlement decisions;

Commercial - Encompassing the wider commercial realities as well as narrow points of law to provide a flexible settlement, which courts or arbitration cannot;

Restorative - Focusing on restoring the business relationship between parties - proceedings are completely confidential to limit any further damage and enable parties to restore constructive ongoing relationships;

Expert - With many years’ experience and expertise we are able to help parties to reach a ‘common-sense’ settlement, or to narrow the issues in dispute, reducing court or arbitration costs.

Mediation Services

The role of the mediator is key to the success of any mediation. The mediator’s role is to assist the parties in a non-judgmental way in their negotiations with each other and help the parties work towards a consensual resolution to the dispute.

By its very nature a settlement is only possible in mediation with the consent of the parties.  It is they who are responsible for the terms of any agreement. As the onus of arriving at the terms of settlement rests with the parties, the flexibility of the process allows for more ingenuity and extra-legal solutions than would ever be possible from a determination imposed by a court or other arbitral process. Hence, we are able to mediate on a wide scope of disputes with particular emphasis on:

  • Development Agreements
  • Joint Ventures
  • Planning Obligations
  • S106 Agreements
  • Procurement
  • Valuation – we are RICS Registered Valuers
  • Overage and Clawback Agreements
  • Sale and Purchase Agreements
  • Subject to Planning Agreements
  • Options and Site Promotion Agreements
  • Boundary Disputes

Mediation Advocacy

We can also assist clients as Mediation Advocates (i.e. acting for a party to the dispute rather than as a neutral Mediator) on order to help prepare for meditation and advise on settlement options.  This can be far more cost effective than a failure of mediation with the inevitable litigation. 

 For further information about our services browse our case studies