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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 9348
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I have just bought a small, 8 piych tipi style campsite in a

Customer Question

I have just bought a small, 8 piych tipi style campsite in a rural area which has proper year round planning permission, highways approval and licensing. It has been running (usually just the spring, summer and autumn months) for ten years by the farmer that set it up.
Access to the site is up a single public highway country lane, accross a bridge origjnally built by the highways dept. as far as the locals believe, and from the bridge we own a private track over which is a public right of way to our site and a couple of houses.
Living next to the bridge in a small cottage is a woman who dislikes the campsite, there is no historical reason for this other than personal preference and other than guests driving on the public highway past her cottage she has nothing to do with the site. She also has a huge reputation for objecting with passion to all local planning applications regardless of source for 18years - the county planning officers all know her first name and address without the need to refer.
This person has spent years being pre-occupied with the bridge and it's ownership. The recent result is that the highways dept, eager to save money from their maintenance bill, has decided that the public highway stops at the tarmac end BEFORE the bridge and are re-drawing te mapping and registry documemts as such. No one has any proof other than hearsay that this department originally built and maintained the bridge. Our track starts the other side of the bridge and the bridge is now without owner. The person in question is now believed to be taking steps to claim ownership of the bridge by apllying to land registry and the council seem to be suppprting this. My concern is that as a reasonable intelligent person who has made local land law and planning her hobby for many years they must know that maintaining the little bridge could cost tens of thousands and will make her house easier to sell, she has very little income. I believe she intends tobhave the bridge removed and an easier to manage ford put in place. A ford, in my opinion and that of our planning consultant, is that a ford would be unsafe here, every year the bridge washes over and though the stream is small it has a considerable annual raise as water runs off the hills. I can only assume the person is taking these steps because they believe that in owning the bridge they can stop us, or more likely, our guests from accessing the site and/or a ford would prevent us from taking bookings over winter months due to difficulty in crossing it with an average family car.
As you can imagine I am keen to know the following:
1. If by owning the bridge they can stop us and our guests from obtaining access from the highway to our private track.
2. Do I need to do anything (such a contact Land Registry) to confirm that we have a historical right of way over the bridge so they maintain it when they write up deeds - I am aware that Land Registry has not yet been updated since our purchase to show that I own the neighbouring land to the bridge.
3. Should they take on the bridge and our access remains in place what can I do to object to the placement of a ford on the site of a current bridge?
Any advice you can give would be a great help.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

On what basis is the property owner applying to the land registry for ownership of the bridge?

Have you seen the deeds to her property and does the bridge potentially come within that?

It would actually cost a fortune to remove it and replace it with a ford!

Do you have proof that the Local Authority have maintained the bridge and the road over it?

How long have you and your predecessors enjoyed the right-of-way down this private track and over the bridge?

Any fine detail is always useful to give a comprehensive answer to your question. Best wishes

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you.
1. I don't know the means by which she is applying to Land Registry and cannot ask her but was led to believe that there is some genuine system for applying for unclaimed land but don't know what it is. She hasn't built a fence or gated the bridge or similar to suggest she is attempting adverse possession.2. I have not seen the deeds to her property but as far as I understand it would not seem likely that it forms part of her property. Apart from local understanding that it was never part of her property the public highway passes approximately 1 metre from her front door then turns approx. 90 degrees and meets the bridge. So this seems unlikely.3. Whilst all the local older people are 100% sure the highways dept. built the bridge in the village and there is even talk that someone they sub-contracted for the original work is still about I have been unable to find any proof at all that they did build it. Apparently the highway department have also visited the bridge on approx. four occassions in the last sixteen years to help maintain it but again we can find no proof - any particular ideas where we might look?4. Our tipi site first received planning in about 2004 but has been actually up and running for about ten years prior to the site starting up the previous landowners on which the site sits have had access for at least thirty years and I am pretty sure it can be proven for decades earlier, there are four additional and separate properties that use it for daily access some of which are clearly very old, additionally other, non-residential farmers who graze the land have been visiting a couple of times each day for many years.I hope this helps
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. She cannot claim adverse possession unless she has occupied the land (which the bridge is on) without consent or objection are not in secret for at least 10 years if the land is registered or 12 years if unregistered at the Land Registry.

She cannot claim adverse possession without lying because other people have used the bridge for many years.

You could make a Freedom of Information Request asking them how many times they have visited the bridge to inspect it and how many times they have carried work out on it in the last 10 years. Hopefully, they will be truthful!

Even assuming that she did own the bridge, if she did not own the land on the other side of the bridge, her ownership only goes to the centre of the riverbed and hence, she could only own half of it so she would have to own both sides of the river to have any chance of owning the bridge if it is in her deeds.

Also, if she does own it, then provided you and your predecessors have used it for 20 years or more for access, you can claim the right to continue to use the bridge under the Prescription Act.

If she starts to demolish the bridge, you could make an emergency application to court for an injunction to stop the work and that, if done by a solicitor attaching a certificate of urgency, could be in court within a few hours.

If she is attempting adverse possession the existing landowner (if known) would be written to but there is no harm in sending your own letter saying that you object to any application for registration of this bridge in the name of Mrs X on the basis that you have a long-standing right of access over it.

It would help if you attached a copy of the deeds of her house with the bridge adjacent so that the land Registry can see exactly where the bridge is. Provided her property is registered at the land Registry you can get the title plan and her deeds from this link.!ut/p/b1/04_SjzS0tDQwMTIxMjLXj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOKNjSxMDA1NjDwsjM3MDTxN3dyNDUNMjQ1MjPWDU_P0c6McFQH3SLFU/

the documents will cost you £3 each.

Can I clarify anything for you? Please do not forget to rate the service positive. It is an important part of the process by which experts get paid.

Best wishes.


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you.
A quick question regarding one of your comments. I understand that the concept of riperian boundary allows two adjacent landowners to have their boundary in the middle of the river however our boundary upon purchase clearly shows that our property stops where the bridge begins, I would assume therefore that this specific marking would 'trump' the middle of the river expectation. Therefore if she does get ownership of the bridge will her 'half' then become the whole bridge up to our boundary amd if so could she then restric access? As landowners there has been easily 20+ years of access however as the campsite has only been going up to 8-10 years our customers have not?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

The boundary is in the middle of the river unless there is any indication plan or deed to the contrary. It’s a presumption in the absence of anything else. Therefore, if the bridge is wholly on someone else’s land, she could possibly try to claim adverse possession of it but I can’t see how she could do that when she has not had exclusive use.

You are correct therefore that the markings on the plan would “trump” the middle of the river presumption.

It doesn’t matter whether you have only been there for 8-10 years or not. It is the total length of time that you and your predecessors and their predecessors all added together have been using this which would give them the right to claim a right-of-way or not.

Please don’t forget to rate the service positive so that I get paid. We can still exchange emails.

F E Smith and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks. I have done your rating.
I assume by 'predecessors' under the Prescription Act that would include legal visitors to our site - ie. our guests.
I have heard from Land Registry today that the public highway, the bridge and our track are all unregistered land although they do have a note from our solicitors on the system to state that the records will be updated to reflect our ownership.
Is there anything else I can do besides your previous comments regarding letter to Land Registry to confirm our access - I would prefer to set anything possible up in advance of her receiving the bridge rather than have to fight via solicitors/court later to prove access. Is it worth going through the motions of trying to apply to Land Registry formally for a right of access to be officially acknowledged - I assume there is a process for this?This is my last question so thanks for all your help
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. Yes, it includes visitors to the site and the owners of the site.

Using it, just one person, once per day would be sufficient to claim the right.

If this is public highway, then she cannot claim adverse possession of it without stopping up order. She will not get that based upon the circumstances outlined.

If any of this land belongs to you, and you have only just purchased it, including any part of the track, then your solicitor will do a First Registration of it.

As soon the land registry get an objection to an adverse possession application, they throw it out and if the claimant wants to pursue it, they have to do it through the land tribunal which can be expensive and risky.

What you would do with regard to the land is file an objection to 1st registration on the basis that you have the right over the land. You can also register a class D(iii) land charge in respect of an equitable easement over the land if it’s not registered. You would probably be better entrusting this to the solicitor that dealt with your purchase.