My right, or yours?

Issac Newton once said “we build too many walls, and not enough bridges”.  But he didn’t comment on the legal ramifications when we build those walls (or, in this case, 6 foot fences).

In this case, a couple have been faced with their neighbour erecting a 6 foot high fence, which they say has block access to a field, prevents views from their property, and makes the ground floor dark.  The neighbours say that the couple were trespassing over their driveway, and the fence was erected to stop this.

The basis of the dispute surrounds a right of way to access the couple’s field over their neighbour’s track.  However, the easement is said to expressly state that the right of way did not include access to the front door.

After losing their legal battle in the County Court costing them £100,000, the couple are now appealing the decision in the High Court said to be costing them an additional £60,000.

Land disputes will often require a careful analysis of the property Deeds to assess the rights and responsibilities.  If an agreement cannot be reached between the parties involved, litigation can be considered to enforce rights and seek remedies if there has been a breach.  However, as we can see from this case, the costs involved in litigation are often significant, so mediation should always be considered as a cost-effective alternative – a stance that is supported by the Courts and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Mediation takes the decision-making power away from the Courts which apply the strict rule of law, and empowers those involved in the dispute to agree a pragmatic solution that works for them.  It helps us to reach a mindset where we build bridges with each other, not walls.

Before embarking on costly and lengthy litigation, parties who are involved in contentious land disputes are advised to seek sound legal advice at the earliest opportunity, to discuss the merits and risks of their case, and options available.

Couple in seven-year £160,000 legal battle slam 'neighbours from hell' who erected 6ft fence 'deliberately boxing in their £600,000 Suffolk home' - but defiantly say they will keep fighting