In a stern warning to neighbours that it pays to get along with each other, landowners engaged in a bitter legal battle over rights of way effectively achieved nothing despite spending four costly days fighting it out in the High Court.
In a case which highlighted potential conflicts between equestrianism and shooting rights, a couple had for years been at loggerheads with their neighbour over alleged rights of way crossing what was once a single 1,400-acre agricultural estate.
Following division of the estate into several parts, the couple bought their manor house home and surrounding land and later built a state-of-the-art indoor riding arena on the site. Their neighbour had bought hundreds of acres of adjoining land from the estate’s original owner.
The couple objected when their neighbour, who hosted commercial shooting parties on his land, erected a gate to stop them and their equestrian clients using a track across his land as a route to nearby bridleways. They argued that they had various rights of way over his property; however, he countered with claims that the couple’s riding arena encroached on his land.
The Court’s decision, however, effectively left both sides in the same positions that they had occupied before the hearing. Denying relief to all parties, the Court found that the rights of way claimed by the couple had not been granted to them, either expressly or impliedly, and that the arena’s construction had not ‘substantially interfered’ with their neighbour’s use of a track that ran alongside it.
The couple and their neighbour, who feared having to suspend his shoots whilst horses crossed his land, each held strong opinions as to the rights and wrongs of the dispute. However, the judge observed, “My task is to determine what, in law, are the legal rights of the parties. Having determined that, the result is that the parties have whatever are their legal rights, but not other rights that they would now very much like to have.”