The proprietor of a mobile café has failed to wrest ownership of a layby on the outskirts of Heathrow Airport from the London Borough of Hounslow after the Court of Appeal ruled that adverse possession rights had not been established on the evidence.
The appellant first started trading on the strip of land in 1990 and argued that he had been in continuous occupation of the site, as of right and without permission, for more than the 12 years required to establish so called ‘squatters’ rights’.
However, his claim to the land was defeated at first instance after the council presented photographic evidence indicating that no van or structure had been present on the land in 1999 and that the chain of continuous occupation had therefore been broken. A possession order was issued against the appellant.
He argued on appeal that the vital photograph had been ‘doctored’ and featured a roundabout which was not in fact built until 2003 or 2004. However, dismissing his challenge, the court ruled that the scene depicted in the photograph was authentic and showed that the land was unoccupied at the time. There was also evidence that the appellant’s van had been moved onto other land at some point, before being moved back again, further disrupting the chain of occupation.