2016-02-19   facebook twitter rss

Boundaries - “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours”

“With the launch of the Countryside Stewardship Hedgerow & Boundaries Grant Scheme and the current value of agricultural land, together with the value and also the scarcity of development land, the question of boundary walls and fences is very topical,” says David Quayle Director of H&H Land and Property.

When it comes to ownership, the true position of an ownership boundary can have significant personal and financial implications and David Quayle had assumed that the adage, “GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBOURS” was from a notable rural sage. However he is disappointed to learn that it comes from an American poem written by Robert Frost which was first published in 1916! “Nevertheless” he says, “it is a very true adage.”

David Quayle

David Quayle

David gives the latest information on boundary opportunities and the points to be considered in terms of boundary protection, ownership and the importance of checking the measurements.

Boundary disputes regularly take on a life of their own, and the parties involved lose all sense of proportion. It is not unusual for the cost of resolving the dispute to exceed the value of the land involved, and quite often this is simply due to the lack of understanding of the parties.

In English Law the word “boundary” has no special meaning, however in land law it can be used to define the legal boundary or the physical boundary.

The legal boundary is an imaginary line separating ownerships, whilst in theory this is an exact line, it has no thickness or width.

The physical boundary, is a fence, wall, hedge or other such permanent boundary, which may follow the line of a legal boundary.

If the boundary is a simple post and wire fence, or dry stone wall, then often there are no issues. However, problems can arise where there are multiple physical features along the line of the legal boundary.

These days the majority of land is registered with HM Land Registry, which registers titles with a “general boundary”. These boundaries are the Land Registry’s interpretation of the boundaries shown on the pre-registration deeds in relation to modern Ordnance Survey (OS) mapping.

The line on the OS map represents the physical feature recorded by the OS when the map was prepared. Often, and especially in rural areas, these maps have not been regularly updated.

The physical feature is represented by a line on the plan which, at scale 1:2500 (the usual and common scale), equates to a line 2 feet wide on the ground.

In rural areas, the OS plans are typically, OS Overhaul at 1:2500 and their margin of error is +/- 3.6 metres - 11 feet. On upland and moorland land, it is not unusual to have maps at scale 1:10000 and their margin of error is +/- 7.7 metres (ie 25 feet)! In the absence of any other evidence, there are various legal presumptions which, may assist the parties, and of course with this comes disagreement.

The most frequent cause of discrepancy is where there is a hedge and ditch on the boundary. The general presumption is that the boundary is along the edge of the ditch furthest from the hedge or cam. The principle being, that the owner standing on his boundary looking inward dug his drainage ditch within his boundary, put the soil on his own land and then planted a hedge on the mound. However, this presumption only applies if it can be shown that the ditch was put on an ownership boundary at the time it was dug. If the land on both sides of the ditch was in the same ownership at the time, then this presumption fails.

To overcome issues and objections it is very important that landowners take specialist advice from an expert experienced in boundary work, land surveying and also in preparing court compliant reports.

Take note of the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’, as one very simple way to avoid any potential dispute is for the owners to enter into a Boundary Agreement. This is a very simple document just setting out an agreement regarding the legal boundary between two owners.

I suppose that “Well Defined and Recorded Boundaries Make Good Neighbours” is not such a good title for a poem! Nevertheless, it is true!

To conclude, David is keen to stress that:
“Although the new Countryside Stewardship Hedgerow & Boundaries Grant Scheme was launched only two weeks ago our Environmental Teams, across the North of England, are already supporting many landowners with their grant applications. This scheme enables successful applicants to receive up to £9.50 for gapping up hedges and £25 per metre for stone wall restoration. Anyone, wishing to benefit from this Scheme must act now, as the deadline for applications is 30 April 2016.”

HH land & Property

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