’Private’ signs should be sufficient to prevent rights being acquired over your land

Tue 1st Nov 2016

Lisa Robinson, Associate in Coodes Solicitors’ Rural Services team comments on a Court of Appeal ruling, which shows that rights of access and parking by long use can be prevented by simply erecting clear signs.

“This case involved a piece of land next to a fish and chip shop, which had formerly been the forecourt to the Conservative Club. For more than 20 years, it had been used for deliveries and customers of the fish and chip shop. The new owners of the former Conservative Club leased the property to a tenant, who then obstructed access to the area, preventing it from being used for parking. The owners of the fish and chip shop protested, on the grounds that they had acquired a ‘prescriptive right’ for their suppliers and customers to park on the forecourt by way of long use.

“Interestingly, the case hung on the fact that there were signs in the car park and the window of the building, dating back to when it was part of the Conservative Club, which clearly said: ‘Private car park. For the use of club patrons only. By order of the committee.’ The Court ruled that this was sufficient in that the new owner or tenant of the former Conservative Club did not need to do anything else to prevent a ‘prescriptive right’ claim over the land.

“Many of us in rural areas will be familiar with ‘prescriptive rights’, which allow neighbours long term access to land. Cases we have dealt with at Coodes include a landowner giving permission to the local community so they can safely access a bus stop by using a pathway through his land which also prevented a prescriptive right being acquired.

“For landowners who want to prevent prescriptive rights being acquired by long use over their land, whether that is dog walkers or parked cars, putting up signs which are clearly visible indicating that it is private land should be sufficient. It is not always practical or safe to put up physical barriers and legally this is not necessary.

“This case was resolved in a very sensible way and I think the outcome should reassure people that they do not need to take any more action if they want to prevent a claim of a prescriptive right of access and parking on their property.”

For more information, contact Lisa Robinson Associate in Coodes Solicitors Rural Services team on 01566 770000 or lisa.robinson@coodes.co.uk

Tue 1st Nov 2016

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