Neighbour has suddenly fenced-off derelict land

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    Neighbour has suddenly fenced-off derelict land

    A fortnight ago a neighbour suddenly erected a fence around an open piece of grassed area at the corner of our street, this area has been accessible to all since 1947 and is commonly used as an area for children to play. The area is about 50ft by 100ft. The fence has been erected and a padlock gate now prevents access, we assume that there is a potential adverse possession claim. The area of land used to belong to the farm accross the road (early 1900's) but had been sold off as part of a larger area of land twice since. Much of the land has been developed since including our estate, but this area has been left undeveloped, we as a community are unsure if we can trace any rightful owner. Is there anything that can be done to prevent the completion of adverse possession on an area of land that has been open for so long. We are waiting to here back from the highways as it appears the fence may have been erected on a strip of highways owned land bordering the said plot. Currently the fence keeps being dismantled (then re erect) and the gate is now un padlocked. Is there anything a community can do to bring a halt to this squatting on land that has been open land and used by the community for 50 years.

    #2
    1. First, verify if anyone holds registered title. Send a clear large-scale plan + Form SIM + £5 to the relevant office of HMLR; this may generate a title number, of which you can then obtain copies (entries/plan).

    2. A 'community' cannot do anything- but the true owner (O) can! The neighbour (N) has a tentative right purely by being in actual occupation; the only person who may be able to knock-over that right is the person with a better legal claim to the land, i.e. O.

    3. For how long has N been occupying? Does the period pre-date N's erection of fencing (and, if so, for what purposes has N been using the land)?
    JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
    1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
    2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
    3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
    4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for your advice, large detailed plan is off to LR, in the meantime is registered title the only form of ownership, or just the easiest to prove.
      Is there any other way to prove ownership of what could be unregistered land, we are tring to contact the estate of the last known 'owners' of the whole parcel of land.

      Ref: Point 3 'N' occupation(??) began with the erection of the fence a fortnight ago, the land has no use, just open grass land and he has not used the land other than trying to fence it off. We have used the land for recreation as most of the local school children have, HE HAS NOT USED THE LAND FOR ANY PURPOSE!, just fenced it off. The fence keeps being taken down in various degrees as soon as it is erected. then re-erected by 'N'.
      Is it too late for for the community to act.
      Should the community get together and 'tresspass' on said land and erect our own fence, would he be able to dismantle this fence or would he have to take the matter to court, we have the fencing available.
      We have a parish meeting on Monday and I would like any advice.

      Comment


        #4
        I'm suprised that there's been no of mention of public right of way. If the land can be shown to have been in public use (by dog walkers, children, etc) for X number of years, it should be shown as such on the rights of way records.

        I think it might be worth contacting DEFRA to ask whether claims to preserve open/common land have been made, and I'd also contact some of the public space organisations like CABE, CPRE, English Heritage and so on to ask for guidance and/or support.

        I'd be interested in hearing how you get on.

        Comment


          #5
          20 years I believe for a footpath...
          Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

          Comment


            #6
            If there is a parish council prepared to act in this matter, then consider an application to register the open land as a town green under the current act.
            Section 15 Commons Act 2006 allows land to be registered as a ‘town or village green’ where:

            ‘A significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years.’
            There are many instances where the local community have achieved such an outcome, so if use has been since 1947, there should be evidence available from older residents that children have played on this land throughout this period.

            Comment


              #7
              May I thank you for the VERY usefull information!
              The parish council are prepared to act on this matter, also my wife has lived here for well over 30 years, Many residents have been here longer. Again the fence has been knock down in full.

              Comment


                #8
                An important update, "The power of conversation" i've spoken to the fence erectors, they admit that they have researched adverse possession, and had an intention to own the land. However they are now dismantling the fence since the highways have served an inforcement notice as part of the fence is on their land. Now where do we go from here, I imagine we have to act quickly, I have told them in my opinion I want the land to remain open and protected from future possession attempts, they have said that the fence will come down but will go back up, they want the land for an 'allotment'. Anyway are they now in possession as they have taken down the fence, I hope not. I would like the community to pursue the village green registration, any advice would be good. at the moment we have the land accessible but this will not prevent any future attempt. Is application to register as village green possible , the area has been used by the village kids for well over 30 years, statements will be easy to come by as many of the locals are long term. Parish meeting takes place Monday, the offenders have agreed inprinciple not to attend the meeting due to the pent up emotion. Also I have wagered the offender £10 that he will have not title interest in the land by christmas. I appreciate things don't happen this quickly but although he has researched adverse possession he has no idea about the village green registration, I don't mind losing £10 but I do not title of this land to go to anyone and I certainly do not want the fence re-erected. Any advice greatly appreciated. Is this progress???

                Comment


                  #9
                  It takes 12 years of adverse possession to extinguish an unregistered title and then an application for a possessory title may be granted by the Land Registry on an application made by the person occupying the land.

                  The rules to make a claim for registration as a village green allow a claim to be made immediately if the land is currently being used, or it allows two years from the date when access is denied to the land, for an application to be made to the registration authority that is probably the County Council.

                  This means that you have lots of time to get organised even if there is a fence erected.
                  From what you have stated so far, there appears to be every chance that this area will be declared a village green once a correctly made application is prepared with supporting evidence provided by long standing members of the community.
                  The fence will have to be dismantled as soon as such a decision is made by the Council, but it is a legal trespass against the person enclosing the land if anyone, other than the legal owner, interferes with the fence if it is re-erected.

                  Be aware that anyone damaging the fence could be liable for criminal damage if the police are asked to get involved by the person erecting the fence.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    AN UPDATE: After the parish meeting it would appear that a DEED OF TRUST between the owner (unregistered) was entered into with the highways, and that highways have rights over the corner of the land adjacent to the 2 roads. This included the all the area where the fence had been erected, hence the enforcment notice and removal of fence. 'N' is still seeking proof of the Deed of trust, and still has an intention to own the land, if such a document doesn't actually exist. There appears to be an area of unresgitered land not covered by the dee of trust. I voiced village green registration at the meeting, the opinion of the council was that it would not be necessary, however local residents were suprised at the potential vunerabilty of the land. I will request that village green registration is put on the adgenda so that a full discussion can take place. At the meeting there was an application for an alloment made on the 3rd of Sept put forward by the fence erectors. I trust they are working on advice to try to justify their action, since the fence and padlocked gate were erected 2 weeks before the allotment application was made.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Any person can make an application for registration of land as a village green. It does not need to be the Parish Council.

                      If you and some of the other neighbouring properties want to make an application then go ahead and do it. The proof required will be statements of local residents that the land has been used for games and such like for at least 20 years.
                      You appear to be able to prove such use quite easily.

                      I do not understand what rights the Parish Council have to decide an application for an allotment on land the Parish Council do not own. That makes no sense at all.

                      There is some sense in making a planning application for a change of use of th eland but that is a local planning authority matter.

                      The man trying to erect the fence to enclose the land will have to have occupied the land for 12 years before he can make a claim to be registered as the owner with adverse possession.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Do we all understand the big difference between:
                        a. registration of title (HMLR); and
                        b. registration of Common Land or Town/Village Green (local authority)?
                        JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                        1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                        2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                        3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                        4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                        Comment


                          #13
                          parish councils are notified of all planning applications and choose whether or not to comment. Their views are taken into consideration but they have no power to say yes or no.
                          Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

                          Comment


                            #14
                            As I understand it allotments don't need planning permission anyway. S55.(2).e Town and Country Planning Act 1990 lets you use any land for agriculture and Crowborough Parish Council v. Secretary of State for the Environment [1981] established that agriculture here includes allotments.

                            I wonder if N. was asking the parish council to establish an allotment on the land. I don't think a parish council has the power to establish an allotment on recreational land (See S.10(6) Allotment Act 1922) but if N. has managed to make it private land then that appears to remove that problem.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Do we all understand the big difference between:
                              a. registration of title (HMLR); and
                              b. registration of Common Land or Town/Village Green (local authority)?
                              Is that the Royal we?

                              Retired old folk certainly do know the difference, especially after 40 years of planning consultancy.

                              If the land is registered as a village green, no development of that land is permissible, as it is to be kept in perpetuity for the lawful games and pastimes of the local villagers.

                              Even those that still chew on straw and wear smocks.

                              Isn't democracy wonderful?

                              Comment

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