PD Ports wins costs against STDC and Teesworks


A High Court judge has ruled that South Tees Development Corporation and Teesworks Ltd must pay most of the costs incurred by PD Ports as a result of the battle over access rights.

Freeports Teesport © Freeports Teesport

In February this year, Mr Justice Rajah had ruled that PD Ports had historic rights to its land holdings on the south bank of the River Tees.

Teesport wins access rights case in High Court WorldCargo News

In the new ruling, published on 28 March, Judge Rajah has ruled that STDC and Teesworks, the plaintiffs in the case, must pay 80% of PD Ports’ costs incurred before 21 September 2023, when an offer by PD Ports to settle the dispute out of court was rejected by the plaintiffs, and 100% of the costs thereafter. The trial commenced on 3 October 2023 and lasted for six weeks.

The interim award exceeds £1.2M, which must be paid within 14 days. The final award is estimated at between £2.7M and £4M. STDC is a public body, so the taxpayer must foot the bill for a lengthy legal case that the judge clearly believes should not have taken place.

STDC has accepted the judgement, but Teesworks Ltd, a public private partnership in which STDC is a stakeholder, has indicated that it will appeal.

Commenting on the award, Michael McConnell, PD Ports’ Group Property Director, commented: “The court has affirmed that we were forced into unnecessary court action which was not of our choosing.

“The judgment underlines that the decision by South Tees Development Corporation and Teesworks to press ahead with legal action – despite the weight of evidence in PD Ports’ favour and our repeated offers of a flexible solution to entirely accommodate their development needs – was entirely unnecessary.

“Contrary to statements made at a recent STDC board meeting, PD Ports made numerous attempts to work with STDC and Teesworks Ltd prior to the court action and repeatedly offered, at nil cost, the ability to have our historic prescriptive rights of access across STDC land realigned in order to enable any proposed commercial development.

“That STDC, a public body with responsibility for the economic regeneration of Teesside, would choose to persist with legal action, backed by Teesworks Limited, against PD Ports – the largest private employer and biggest driver of inward investment in the region which should be viewed as a strategic partner – is disappointing and frustrating. We hope this now draws a line under this matter.”

STDC is part of Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) group and is chaired by the Mayor of TVCA, Lord Ben Houchen. He is a Board member of Teesside Freeport, whose members include PD Teesport and Teesworks Ltd. The whole affair is a further blow to the credibility of the freeport.

The judgement states [paragraph 280] that TVCA and STDC believed that the owner of PD Ports, Brookfield Asset Management, wanted to sell PD Teesport, and their control of the access rights provided them “with enormous leverage to buy the company at a discount and ‘flip it’ later a higher value.”

The judgement can be viewed here.

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