Harcourt Developments settles legal action against UK company

Parties had previously agreed to develop lands near Bristol for housing

Harcourt brought High Court proceedings against Surrey-based Crest Nicholson (South West) Limited alleging it was “improperly” threatening to have Harcourt wound up. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Harcourt brought High Court proceedings against Surrey-based Crest Nicholson (South West) Limited alleging it was “improperly” threatening to have Harcourt wound up. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

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A legal action aimed at preventing a UK company having Irish-based Harcourt Developments wound up over a disputed debt of £2 million (€2.26 million) has been settled.

Harcourt, which employs more than 800 people and says it is not insolvent, brought High Court proceedings against Surrey-based Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd alleging it was “improperly” threatening to have Harcourt wound up.

Harcourt claimed Crest had “an ulterior motive” in seeking to have it put into liquidation and the petition was an attempt to force it to sell development lands in England at a significant undervalue to Crest.

The parties had previously entered an agreement to develop the lands near Bristol into housing but a dispute arose.

Harcourt Developments Unlimited Company had in its High Court proceedings sought an injunction restraining Crest bringing or advertising any petition to wind up the Irish firm and argued any dispute arising from a settlement agreement should be heard before an English and Welsh court.

Harcourt previously obtained permission to serve short notice of the proceedings against Crest but the matter was adjourned from time to time while discussions took place.

On Friday, Rudi Neuman, for Harcourt, told Mr Justice Tony O’Connor the matter had been settled and on consent of both parties the entire proceedings could be struck out with no order. No details of the settlement were outlined.

Last May, Martin Hayden SC, with Mr Neuman, for Harcourt said the dispute concerned a settlement agreement arising out of a dispute over a Joint Landowners Agreement (JLA) in respect of plans to develop the lands.

Harcourt entered into a JLA in 2006 with two entities, Muben Investments, which held a leasehold interest on part of the Bristol lands, and Crest Nicholson, which owned lands adjoining Muben’s property.

Broke down

The relationship between Crest and the other parties broke down in 2015 and Crest sought to terminate the JLA. The dispute went before an expert for determination.

Harcourt claimed it believed it had resolved matters with Crest to recommence the development in 2017 when the parties entered a settlement agreement and paid £1.8 million to Crest.

Part of the agreement involved payments being made to Crest for costs it had incurred on the development.

Harcourt claimed Crest failed to provide Harcourt with vital information it requires to progress the development. Crest said it would only provide the information after it was paid money allegedly owed to it by Harcourt.

Harcourt claimed the settlement agreement did not provide information would be provided by Crest after payments of additional monies to those already paid to it by Harcourt.

Last April, Crest made a demand on Harcourt for payment of £2 million. Harcourt claimed Crest was seeking to engage in a form of disputed debt collection and was not entitled to do so.

Harcourt claimed it was intentionally misled by Crest and the threat of bringing a winding-up petition is an attempt to force it to sell its interest in the development to Crest.

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