Commercial property expert, Anna Duffy, discusses the Winterburn v Bennett case and advises how to prevent third parties acquiring rights over your land.
Allowing ‘neighbours’ to use your vacant land as a shortcut or parking, can cause an issue for further development plans?
In a recent case (Winterburn (W) v Bennett (B)), (W) operated a fish and chip shop adjacent to the entrance to a car park. Their suppliers and customers used the car park but the car park was privately owned by (B).
Until 2007, there had been a sign attached to the wall of the car park which stated “Private car park” There was also a similar sign in the building’s window.
(W) claimed that an easement to use the car park for themselves, their suppliers and customers had arisen by prescription based on 20 years’ uninterrupted use ‘as of right’ (i.e. without force, secrecy or permission).
The Court decided that signs on land indicating that a certain activity is prohibited on that land are sufficient to render the subsequent activity contentious (thus preventing the activity maturing into an easement, or perhaps frustrating its registration as a town or village green), even where the sign is wholly ignored for the prescriptive period, and no attempt is made to enforce the landowner’s rights.
Make sure you display clear signs which…
- Use clear words;
- Can be easily seen;
- Are replaced if damaged or vandalised;
- Establish a “proportionate protest”;
At DTM Legal we have experience in advising clients in relation to uninvited third parties. For more information, please contact commercial property expert, Anna Duffy on t: 0151 230 1219 or e:firstname.lastname@example.org