Access to a mineshaft.

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    Access to a mineshaft.

    I'll hazard a guess you've never come across a situation like this one before! In 1998 I and some friends rehabilitated a Victorian lead mine shaft on a hill farm in Co. Durham. The farmer was very amenable and allowed access for a contractor's digger and our equipment. We spent thousands of pounds restoring the shaft and gaining access to the underground workings. This was essentially out of enthusiasm for old mines and minerals (i.e. a hobby, but taken very seriously). Although we tried (unsuccessfully) to recoup some of our costs by selling mineral specimens from the mine (the mineral rights belong to a neighbour who gave his oral consent to this). Our agreement with the farmer was oral, and no rent was paid. Sadly he died about two years ago and his niece inherited the land. In one phone call at the time she spoke to one of us and seemed uncomfortable about our presence, although I do not know what exactly was said, although we offerred to buy the land and thereby relieve her of any liabilities. Nothing more was heard from her for 2 years so we carried on visiting the mine. Now we have suddenly received a solicitor's letter ordering us off her land at 7 days' notice. No suggestion of recompense for the thousands of pounds we have invested, and not nearly enough time to retrieve the tonnes of equipment currently down the mine. What can we do? For access we only need to hop the fence from her neighbour's land (who is alive and well and amenable - but again access from his side is still by oral agreement). A few metres walk (literally a short stone's throw) then brings us to the shaft. The underground workings are under her neighbour's land, the shaft only gives access to them.

    #2
    To be honest....yes its quite a strange situation, but as much as you may not like it, she has every right to not allow you on the land. It is not a public right of way, it is her land. As far as I can see there is nothing you can do I'm afraid! Make an actual monetary offer for the land I think.
    Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

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      #3
      Can i just ask, out of interest, how much does a mineshaft cost these days????
      Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

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        #4
        Access to mineshaft.

        It cost us a few grand to rehabilitate the shaft, and a few more on fuel over the years. The original landowner was happy for us to do this, and intimimated, in front of witnesses, that we could carry on as long as we liked. To remove our equipment from the mine in just 7 days, as the new owner wants, would be physically impossible. Do we have squatters' rights? Do we have a tenancy, even if it was oral, and no money changed hands? As the shaft is on open, unfenced pasture, do we have any access under "Right to Roam" perhaps? When the original owner died we offerred to buy the tiny plot of land where the shaft was for £2k which is vastly more than it is worth. The offer was rejected outright. I am told the current owner is very wealthy and has no interest in making more money.
        Last edited by Steve; 13-09-2005, 12:38 PM. Reason: Forgot to add something.

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          #5
          Originally posted by Steve
          It cost us a few grand to rehabilitate the shaft, and a few more on fuel over the years.

          The original landowner was happy for us to do this, and intimimated, in front of witnesses, that we could carry on as long as we liked.

          Makes no difference I'm afraid. First of all, it needs to be a CLEAR verbal contract for it to be any use, intimating is no good. If he stated you can use it for as long as you like, in those words, in front of witnesses, it may mean something. Even if he said that, it is irrespective, as he is no longer the land owner and the new owner has no obligation to keep up a promise the previous owner made.

          To remove our equipment from the mine in just 7 days, as the new owner wants, would be physically impossible.

          You will need to express this, as although you may not have a right to be on the land, you do have a right to have the equipment, and so you need to discuss these arrangments with her. A refusal by her to extend the 7 day deadline with regards your equipment should lead to a small claims court claim against her for the property, and she would almost certainly lose.

          Do we have squatters' rights?

          No. The only way you could get close is by having been at the land for 12 years and having fenced off the land and shown an effort to actually use it. Even if you had, which you obviously have not, this law has now changed and you still couldnt claim it, as it depends on not being challenged. This situation would be different if you were actually living on the land obviously.

          Do we have a tenancy, even if it was oral, and no money changed hands?

          No. A tenancy would be reliant on money changing hands.


          As the shaft is on open, unfenced pasture, do we have any access under "Right to Roam" perhaps?

          Not an area I know much about, but I don't see why you would.


          When the original owner died we offerred to buy the tiny plot of land where the shaft was for £2k which is vastly more than it is worth. The offer was rejected outright. I am told the current owner is very wealthy and has no interest in making more money.
          It is unfortunate, and I sympathise, but unfortunately you have absolutely no legal right to access. This is always a risk if you purchase land/property/mineshaft without public access. Personally, when the previous landlord allowed you to use it, I would have offered to buy the land then. Now, you are going to have to be very very amicable with this person, and attempt to have discussions with her as to how you can have access. Really suck up, as it is entirely up to her! Perhaps offer more for the land, or maybe more appealing to her if she has no intended use for the land is pay a yearly fee to have access perhaps. See if you can talk to her, explain the situation, say that you know she has every right to prevent access, but say that you hope you can come to some arrangement. If worst comes to worst you could perhaps offer to sell her it!
          Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

          Comment


            #6
            Now, and of course I do not condone this, but if the area is in countryside, and fairly remote, away from any sight, then you could of course theoretically just continue to walk over the land. When you say a few metres, how many metres exactly?
            Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

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              #7
              Is there any chance this site is of archeology interest, maybe you could approach the council of archeology to see if any laws allow you access to conduct your investigations, maybe some kind of compulsary purchase?

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                #8
                It is less than ten metres from her neighbour's land. We cross her neighbour's land (with his oral permission) then hop the boundary fence to the land where the shaft is. Once underground we are back under the neighbour's land again. If she completely refuses to allow access then it would put her neighbour in the embarrassing position of facilitating trespass were we just to go anyway in defiance of her. We do not want to put him in this position. Besides, he needs to maintain good relations with his neighbours and, in a dispute, he would probably be forced to side with the awkward woman. We would be prepared to leave the site if she compensated us for the loss of our investment. At the very least we would appreciate a few months to recover our equipment. I might also add that when we first arrived the shaft was in a dangerous condition. We made it safe and thereby did the landowner a service at our expense. One of our group is so angry he is threatening to simply lift the man-hole cover off the shaft and walk away with it leaving an open hole down which livestock could fall. Would we be held liable if we did this and an accident then happened (the cover belongs to us)? There was never any agreement to restore the site, and the woman has not asked us to, or to make it safe. She just wants rid of us.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Steve
                  It is less than ten metres from her neighbour's land. We cross her neighbour's land (with his oral permission) then hop the boundary fence to the land where the shaft is. Once underground we are back under the neighbour's land again. If she completely refuses to allow access then it would put her neighbour in the embarrassing position of facilitating trespass were we just to go anyway in defiance of her. We do not want to put him in this position. Besides, he needs to maintain good relations with his neighbours and, in a dispute, he would probably be forced to side with the awkward woman.

                  Good point.

                  We would be prepared to leave the site if she compensated us for the loss of our investment.

                  Unfortunately, you do not have the luxury of saying this....she does not have to compensate you, and you will have to leave the site.

                  At the very least we would appreciate a few months to recover our equipment. I might also add that when we first arrived the shaft was in a dangerous condition. We made it safe and thereby did the landowner a service at our expense. One of our group is so angry he is threatening to simply lift the man-hole cover off the shaft and walk away with it leaving an open hole down which livestock could fall. Would we be held liable if we did this and an accident then happened (the cover belongs to us)?

                  I suspect that yes you could in fact be liable....as it is, at least partially, due to negligence that any accident occured, negligence of failing to maintain the "property" to a safe standard. Of course over time you could argue that being denied access you could not maintain it, but not at the moment

                  There was never any agreement to restore the site, and the woman has not asked us to, or to make it safe. She just wants rid of us.
                  This will probably sound very stupid, as I obviously know sweet FA about mines, but how deep is it? Can you dig another access entrance on the neighbours land and buy that land off them? I realise this is possibly a nonsense :P just trying to think of some kind of solution!
                  Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    It is also worth asking her why specifically she has a problem with you being there. If she has a specific concern(I do not know obviously what you do there, but perhaps noise? safety? other issues?) an agreement to rectify this on your part may lead to her being more receptive to purchasing or renting the land.
                    Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      The shaft is about 60 feet deep. Digging a new incline from the friendly neighbour's side would cost tens of thousands (and probably need planning permission) and is well beyond our ability. We are very quiet and not a nuisance in any way. I think her concern is to do with liability, though I am not sure. This is in spite of us having full insurance - both 3rd party and personal accident. Thanks for all your advice by the way.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Yeh kinda figured it would be far too deep. Erm.....well in that case I'm afraid I'm out of ideas! You need to try and get some form of co-operation from her, otherwise you are basically screwed im afraid.Perhaps worth checking land registry details to see if the boundaries are where you think they are? Long shot I know but its my last idea!
                        Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          With respect to Dazalock's idea, Victorian lead mines are commonplace - there are hundreds of them in the Pennines alone. Sadly there is no hope of trying the archaeology or heritage ploy. The deadline to get out is 17th (i.e. Saturday) but one of us is out of the country at the moment on business and we all have other commitments that will occupy us until mid-October at the earliest. We only got the solicitor's letter last Saturday. One would have to be superman to clear our gear out at such absurdly short notice. I guess the best we can hope for is to plead for more time to vacate, unless anyone else has any other ideas?

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                            #14
                            Unfortunately steve I think that is the best you can hope for. You really need to sit down and try and talk it out with her, appeal to her better nature. If she doesnt still allow you access and she doesnt allow you back at a later date to remove the stuff, she has still got to allow you to remove your property.
                            Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              but why should she do anthing she was possibly being nice and thought that you would only visit the mine a few times then loose intrest,now you have brought hevy machinery and people expecting to dig and sell who knows what.......................maybe she just wants you gone..........sure there are lots of mines pick another hole to throw your money into

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