Posted by Caroline Preist, Partner
Rights of way – how rights can be acquired by visiting your favourite chippy
It’s well known that the owner of one piece of land can gain a right of way over another’s land by using it, whether on foot or in vehicles for over 20 years.
But a recent case extends the ways in which rights can be acquired.
The case involved neighbouring properties used as a club and a fish and chip shop. Customers of the chip shop parked in the club’s car park and walked across it to pick up their chips and deep fried Mars bars. The club put up signs saying the car park was for the use of patrons only. The steward also “remonstrated” with users.
You can walk but you can’t park
On appeal, the Upper Tribunal found, that a right can be acquired if the access way is used by third parties (in this case customers) rather than the owner of the land. Therefore the chip shop acquired the right to cross and re-cross the club car park on foot.
The Tribunal found that no parking rights had been acquired. The signs (which objected to parking only and not to foot traffic) made the parking “contentious” and therefore any parking had been “by force”. As rights can only be acquired where the use is without force, the application for a parking easement failed.
The case is a further example of how well-worded signage, erected and maintained in a prominent place, can be effective in defeating what can turn out to be a highly devaluing right.
The Tribunal did not reflect upon the health benefits that the chip shop users would no doubt acquire by having to park further away and walk to the chip shop!
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