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Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
May I ask how you have determined the likely date the fencing off took place please?
You mention that the woodland was only registered in 2012 - for the avoidance of doubt, do you mean the land was unregistered before 2012 (as opposed to your purchase being registered in 2012)?
yes land was unregistered prior to that (might of been late 2011).
ill give more details now
basically, the land was up for sale, a group of neighbors bought it to prevent it being used for housing. they registered it and almost immediately "another owner" (mr stevens) came out of the woodwork with papers dating to 1950's saying it was his families land. he appealed and due to solicitor inefficiency (not recording the objection of the consortium with land registry within the specified timescale) it passed back to mr stevens. mr stevens sold it to mrs pascoe in 2013 and i bought it in 2014 (with my neighbour - who was one of the original consortium). I'm not particularly worried about the chap who has fenced off the 30 x 10 as he only bought the property in sept 2003 so could not of reached the 12 year required time, but the man who has grassed the smaller area is of concern as he has lived there longer however google earth shows that in 2006 it looks as if it has only just been grassed.
can i just walk onto the grassed area and "reclaim it " by means of a fence ?
Thanks. The neighbours will not on the face of what you say have acquired title to the land through adverse possession. As you say 12 years is required for unregistered land, and grassing off without erecting boundary structures is unlikely to show the necessary intent to possess as it is typically necessary to exclude all others by erecting fences to show this. Rather they are likely to be trespassing on your land and you can require them to remove the fencing from your land and restore any previous boundary if there was on (not if there was not).In order to do so you need only serve them with a written notice giving notice of the trespass and requiring them to remove all boundary structures and other property from your land and make good any damage caused within 28 days and undertake to cease and desist further trespass in the future failing which you reserve your position to include a claim for damages and an injunction ordering the removal of the boudary structures and ordering the neighbour not to trespass again in the future together with costs.There is of course nothing stopping you entering into negotiations for leaseing or licencing the land in question to the to individuals but that is a separate matter. You may either decide to approach them personally or in writing before or after serving the above notice if this is of interest to you. A solicitor can easily prepare a simple licence for the land for you if you are content to rent to them on a yearly basis or something of that nature. A lease may be appropriate if a longer term is required which would be more costly to prepare but can be granted for a much longer term if required. If you have a mortgage on the woodland then the lenders consent would be required to enter into a lease.
With regard to the grassed area, following any notice as above, you may consider erecting a boundary fence at the boundary of your land.
Can I help you with anything else or has the above answered your questions satisfactorily?
if we serve the notice ourselves (or via a solicitor) and nothing happens within the 28 days, who do we apply to for a "fast track" decision ?
If you need to go to court for an order you can either apply using a part 8 claim for or form N16A (links below)
The part 8 claim form (1st link) is the suiable form if you just want an order requiring them to remove the fencing and make good your land or damages in lieu. The N16A form (2nd link) is suitable if you also want to seek an injunction ordering them not to trespass in the future. The former is likely to be sufficient.
Have I been able to help you with all your questions?
that sounds brilliant, thanks for your help.
A pleasure. I hope you are able to recover your land with the minimum of fuss.
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