X sold 47 acres out of the 4000 acre Estate. This land was subject to a restrictive covenant ‘not to develop the . . . land for building purposes except in strict accordance with plans [approved by the owners of Wrotham Park Estate].’ The covenant was expressed to be for the benefit of ‘Wrotham Park Estate’. The plaintiff later acquired Wrotham Park Estate. The defendant acquired a small part of the servient land. The defendant obtained planning permission from the local authority to build 13 ‘middle class’ houses on the land. It did not, however, submit its plans to the plaintiff for approval. D completed the building operations and the first residents moved into their new homes. NB P and D were both assignees of the original parties.
HELD: The judge refused to order that the houses should be demolished. Instead, he awarded the plaintiff damages equivalent to the ‘price’ it could reasonably have asked for releasing the covenant.
Brightman J: As long as the estate owner might reasonably take the view that the restriction remained of value to the estate, the covenant remained enforceable. In between cases of obvious benefit or obviously no benefit, a covenant’s enforceability depends on whether the estate owner has a reasonable and sincere view that it is valuable.