Formal dealings with land should never be attempted without first taking professional advice. The point was powerfully made by a case in which home-made plans setting out a right of way were the root cause of an intractable dispute between commercial property owners.
The case concerned a right of way enjoyed by the owners of a yard over a track that crossed a neighbouring nursery. It was created in 1992 by the former owner of both plots of land. He drew up two different plans, on one of which the right of way was delineated by a thick coloured line. The line on the other plan was thinner, thus setting the scene for a dispute that had raged for years unchecked.
Following a hearing, a judge ruled in the yard owners’ favour on the main, but not all, issues in the case. He concluded that the right of way had varying widths along its length, ranging from 4.5 metres to 2.5 metres. The nursery owner had substantially interfered with the right of way by allowing trees and bushes to impinge onto it and by installing a moveable fence with concrete footings that often had to be moved to enable vehicular access to the yard.
The yard owners were awarded £2,000 in damages, including £1,000 for the nursery owner’s failure to maintain the track’s surface. The judge also found in the nursery owner’s favour on part of his counterclaim and awarded him £5 in damages. An injunction was issued against the nursery owner which, amongst other things, forbade him from obstructing the right of way or telephone services to the yard.
In dismissing the nursery owner’s challenge to that outcome, the High Court noted that he was completely unrepentant for his long-term obstruction of the right of way. There was no proper basis for disturbing the judge’s conclusions and two of the grounds of appeal put forward were totally without merit.