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Rights of way: High Court decision is good news for developers

Lodders’ Real Estate expert Alastair Frew explains the case of Lea v Ward, a case in which a developer partly obstructed a right of way.

A few weeks ago, the High Court handed down an important judgment regarding rights of way. The established position had been that, if you have a right of way OVER your neighbour’s land, then your neighbour is not entitled to divert that right of way without your express permission. In other words, you cannot force your neighbour to accept a re-routed access track, even if you need to move it in order to redevelop your land.

The case of Lea v Ward rather surprisingly confirmed that, in certain circumstances, it is now possible for landowners to move their neighbour’s right of way. This case was complicated and the judge had to sift through numerous documents. The court held that the defendant had interfered with the right of way, but if the defendant was prepared to make certain modest adjustments, this interference was relatively minimal. On this basis, the court awarded modest damages and refused to grant an injunction.

In the final analysis, this does open the door for developers to be able to make changes to rights of way which cross their land, provided that those changes are sensible and do not cause inconvenience to the other party. This case introduces no new law but provides a useful illustration of the practical and legal issues that need to be considered where an imprecise easement has been granted and a subsequent dispute arises. It will be interesting to see if the courts support this judgment in the coming years.

Lea v Ward [2017] EWHC 2231 (Ch).

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Get in touch

For more information on this story or about Lodders’ Real Estate services, contact Alastair Frew on 01789 206117 or by email.