15 May 2014

An express easement “over and along” a 30ft lane included access at any point along the lane, so that the neighbouring owner was prevented from building a wall along the lane.

Most solicitors would agree that good fences make good neighbours. However, in Emmett v Sisson 2014 EWCA Civ 64, one neighbour's attempt to erect a wall caused more strife than peace in Hereford.

Mr and Mrs Emmett owned a private drive which served their land as well as Mr and Mrs Sissons' land. The drive ran along the boundary between their respective pieces of land but was situated only on the Emmetts' land. The Sissons had the benefit of an express easement over the Emmetts' drive.

The Emmetts wanted to build a high brick wall along the boundary, leaving an entrance at one end so that the Sissons could still use the drive to access their property. The Sissons objected, despite the fact that the Sissons had already built a low brick stone wall along the drive way on their side of the land.

The Court of Appeal determined that the easement included the 'relative luxury' for the Sissons to access their land from any point along the driveway and that a wall between the driveway and the Sissons' land would interfere with that right. It was held that the wording of the easement had to be read in the context of the original intention of the parties and the setting of the land. In this case, there was an open boundary when the easement was created, the driveway ran along the edge of the Sissons' land and the Sissons were obliged to fence their land, except for the boundary along the drive way.

While this case is largely fact specific, it is a helpful reminder that an easement needs to be considered in context of what was intended at the date when the right was granted. This issue could have been avoided if the conveyance had stated that the right of way was 'over and along the route A to B accessed only from points A and B'. Alternatively, the Emmetts could have put the wall on the other side of the driveway, no doubt saving much time and cost.

Key contact

Colin Ligman

Colin Ligman Partner

  • Real Estate
  • Banking and Finance
  • Corporate Restructuring and Insolvency

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