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Boundary War decided by Old Wooden Gate

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

A 15-year-long boundary dispute between neighbours on an island in the middle of the River Thames, concerning a strip of land measuring just 10 feet in width, has been resolved by a judge who treated the position of an old wooden gate as the decisive factor.

Ash Island nestles in the river near Hampton Court Palace. Since 1997, the island has been at the centre of a row between two families that own land there. Both families have the right to moorings on the Thames and one of them rents out moorings to the owners of houseboats.

The dispute started when one of the property owners wrote to the other complaining that a boat on one of their moorings was overlapping her mooring area. The dispute made its way onto dry land as the neighbours argued over the exact extent of their land holdings and thus their river frontages.

When the matter reached court, the judge commented that title deeds dating back to 1947, when the island was divided and sold off, were ‘not clear and unequivocal’. On the balance of probabilities, therefore, the judge concluded that the boundary line between the properties was marked by an ‘old wooden gate’, which was at some point replaced by another that was itself removed in 2010.

The judge added that, even if he were wrong in his decision as to the legal title to the disputed strip, previous owners of the land had acquired adverse possession rights over it, having occupied it as of right and without permission for more than 12 years (20 years’ occupation is now the required period for a claim for adverse possession – ‘squatters’ rights’ – to succeed).

If you are concerned about others using your land or interfering with its boundaries, contact us for advice.

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