A long-running boundary dispute looks to be on course for a hearing in the highest court in the land, despite the legal costs of the case having already greatly exceeded the value of the land under dispute.
Ian and Diane Pennock had built a stone wall with steps leading down to the water on the south side of a stream between what they considered to be their property and that of their neighbour, Gillian Hodgson. Mr and Mrs Pennock believed that the stream formed the boundary between their land and that of Ms Hodgson, who lived to the north of them. Both areas had originally belonged to the same owner. Ms Hodgson maintained that a fence which had stood to the south of the stream in 1993, when the land to the north was conveyed to her, represented the boundary. This would mean that the land on which the wall was built, as well as the stream to the north of it, belonged to her. She demanded that the steps be blocked up.
When the case was heard in Newcastle upon Tyne County Court, the judge held that the governing conveyance, on which the Pennocks had attempted to rely, was unclear and that Ms Hodgson’s view of where the boundary lay was the correct one. This decision was unanimously upheld by the Court of Appeal. In his opinion, Lord Justice Mummery said that the judge in the original decision had not acted subjectively and, given the lack of clarity of the governing conveyance, was entitled to consider ‘extrinsic evidence’ (i.e. the physical features of the land concerned).
Although the judgment was highly critical of the parties’ inability to resolve the dispute without resorting to court proceedings, Mr and Mrs Pennock have been granted leave to appeal.