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Right of way

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MagsE | 11:23 Fri 28th Apr 2006 | How it Works
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Is there any law at all that would allow us to temporarily dig up a short piece of unadopted road that we do not own (but, along with the general public, have right of way over) for the purpose of providing water/sewage/gas to a listed building that we own at the end of said road? Our neighbours (who believe that they jointly own the road - how could I find out if this is true?) won't give us permission - even though we would put the road back to good condition (we would even fund the tarmacing of it, it's presently mud and weeds). Their reason is that they don't want the disturbance of the property being used for any purpose - they would rather it fell down! It's a lovely victorian tower and deserves to be saved from decay. We would only want to use it for simple pleasures - bird watching, a little windsurfing and escaping from the hurly burly of normal life. I believe (but don't know how to prove) that the building may have once had at least some of these services as it was once used as mission/chapel. If there are old pipes sevicing the bulding already under the road - would we have the right to renew/replace them?


Thank you


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If the unadopted road is a public right of way the local council will need to issue an order to allow it to be temporarily obstructed. However, most utility providers are exempt from seeking such permission in order to undertake work of an essential nature. In any case, your neighbours would not be allowed to object to the proposal simply because they do not want to suffer the disturbance, whether they partly own the road or not. Life is full of disturbances and we all have to suffer them from time to time.


Speak to somebody within the local council and I'm sure they will point you in the right direction.

Have you considered you also might jointly own the road? If you are only using it for simple pleasures then you could also make do with portable services, generator, battery electrics, oil heating, bottled gas, water bowser, caravan toilet etc. and be fully independant. They might change their mind when they see they can't stop you.
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Thank you both for your thoughts.


We have thought about portable services and, in fact, make do - after a fashion, with taking drums of fresh water with us and collecting rainwater on site. We have a wood-burning stove and underfloor heating utilising the rainwater and electricity (the latter, fortunately, we have already have). The main problem is sewage/waste removal. The building stands in its own footprint with no other land owned by us except the slipway to the shore which is a public right of way. This prevents us from installing a septic tank as there are regulations about the distance these have to be from a building.


The irony is that with about a day's digging work the services could be laid and it would make no difference to the neighbours as we already use the building regularly and do our very best to be good neighbours. I think their plan is that if they are as awkward as possible we will go away and the building will fall down. This, ofcourse, won't happen because, as owners of a listed building, we have a legal duty to keep it in repair.


It is tempting to point out that if we can't use the place for our own quiet use, we may be forced to rent it out as storage or similar - which would necessitate far more activity and nuisance than we would ever generate. There is also the point that, if we were to sell it, another owner might not be nearly as considerate of the neighbours' feelings as we have, so far, been. These points are still firmly up our sleeves for the time being!

I would talk the the local water company about this - you are going to have to get a quote from them to do the work in any case and they are very familiar with the process getting the necessary permission in a range of difficult circumstances. I live off a bridleway that has vehicular access right of access along the bridleway acquired over time through Prescription. The bridleway is not on the Register of Common Land and seems to be owned by no-one. Six years ago, Thames Water put a main sewer (for the first time) in it with no problems. When I moved here 18 months ago, l was concerned because needed to dig up the bridleway to run a lateral into this main sewer. Thames Water just 'did it' - with no formal permission. They seem to know what they can and can't do.


To try and find out who owns the lane, make an application to the Land Registry. Outline the lane in red on a simple plan and make a postal application - you won't be able to do this using their on-line service. This only works if the lane is registered as part of someone's registered Land Title. If this lane is also a public footpath or a bridleway, try the Local Authority register of Common Land - which would confirm the LA owns it. Alternatively it should also be obvious from the notes attached to your own LR entry because you must have an easement to allow you access up the lane (if your solicitor did his job right)?

The above written before your last post above - sorry if it repeats.
The answers above start in the wrong place. For any form of occupation you will need Planning Permission and the permission of Heritage. To try to install services without these permissions will be viewed as you trying to circumvent them by stealth and will meet with condign penalty. You have absolutely no right to surface the track, even if the ruts are six feet deep you can still get up it and even if you cannot you must leave it alone. It is probable that the necessary permissions will not be granted, but should they be the service providers will need easements if none are in existence. Your neighbours will obviously object to everything. That an old structure "deserves to be saved from decay" is emotive and to have an opposite view is just as valid.

Goldenshred, planning has nothing to do with services and you don't need anyones permission to access your own property. There is nothing to stop this use, even if the owners were living there as their main residence without applying for a change of use to residential, no law is broken and after four years no enforcement action can be taken. It would only be a problem for them if an enforcement notice were issued against residential use within that time and then ignored.


The chances are everyone using this road is entitled to lay services to their own property, a check with the local water company will confirm what they can do.


A listed building is protected by law and will not be allowed to decay, this is not being emotive.


Sounds a nice place Mags let me know if you intend to let it. Is it tidal waters (shock horror, it's not actually illegal or harmful to discharge limited sewage into the sea as boats and many authorities still do, it provides nutrients for wild life, could be an answer), any moorings and what part of the country?

Stanleyman and Golden Shred. There are surely 2 issues here and they need to be separated. It is probably true that Mags would need permission to install such services in a Listed Building, Golden Shred. I was taking this as being a 'given' and was dealing with the legal issue of permissions (easements) only. Stanleyman, I do not think it is true that one does not need permission to access one's own land. If one needs to pass over another piece of land between the public highway and one's own land, an easement is required to gain access. There are hundreds of legal cases involving 'ransom strips'. As I understand, permissions is Mags' problem (over the lane). She appears to have an easement for right of access but not for passage of pipes. Mags needs to find out who owns the land on which the lane runs. It may be owned by another landowner, by the County Council/LA, or by no-one. My point in the first posting was that if she can find out the basis under which she has right of access (the easement) to her property, she may be able to determine who the landowner of the lane is. She then needs to seek to acquire the second easement. These are two separate easements and having one (right of access) does not entitle one to the other (right of passage of pipes). My second point was that water companies deal with this issue every day and have a 'permissions dept.' that knows all the wrinkles.

do you already own this tower or are you in the process of thinking about it?

I was refering to entering the building and using it when I said permission for access was not required as Golden Shred suggested, there is no issue regarding getting to it.


Building regs and listed building consent would be needed for a toilet if not already there but not to provide the services from a utility supplier.

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I don't believe it! (Think Meldrew). I have typed a lengthy reply twice - and lost it as I posted it; doh!
Thank you all for your considered answers and help.
We have owned the building since 2000 and were granted PP in 2001 for "change of use to dwellinghouse with interim use as a design office/boat storage". The property is in the NW of England on an island connected to the mainland by a causeway. It is tidal (sometimes very!) and we had thought we might rent it out for enough weeks in a year just to cover the costs of running it.
As I suspected, there does not seem to be a straightforward answer to this problem. What I suppose I must be looking for is a law/bylaw that allows us to simply install the utilities that would allow us to quietly enjoy a very lovely and unique little bit of local history. By the way, Golden Shred your issue about saving it from decay is not only emotive - we have a legal duty as owners to maintain and preserve a listed building. I agree that there is an opposite viewpoint - though I'd challenge its validity bearing in mind the number of passers by who call in for a look and want to know its history. We have also recently had a locations company showing an interest in using it for filming - watch this space!
My attempts to contact the utility providers have been less than satisfactory. I usually get a lengthy set of instructions/options from a computer before finally getting through to a very young/bored/underqualified- sounding person who will eventually tell me to phone the number I first thought of. They do not seem to have records that go back further than privatisation (no comment!) The Land Registry office was vague as was our solicitor. Thanks for the suggestion of asking the Council - I suppose they might have a clue (but I won't hold my breath!)

As the property is on an island, is there actually mains gas and sewage available? This will depend on the size and population but even the Isle of Wight until only a few years ago had it's local untreated sewage discharges into the sea.
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Yes, stanleyman, all services are no more than 20 metres away and the sewage system was completely replaced a few years ago; how maddening is that? I am not sure about disposal of sewage into the sea; the tide goes a long way out and the channel is quite busy - can't imagine our popularity level being that high if we resorted to this - and I sense that it's probably illegal.

When I copied /pasted the above, the daft AB system thinks the Burge Island website address is the whole of the second bit of the post. You can see which bit is the web address.

It's not illegal but you would need an easement from the Crown Commissioners to lay a sewage pipe on the seabed and as there is a sewage system to connect to you probably wouldn't get it. Back to square one!


I'd be inclined to claim part or full ownership of the road and/or an easement to your property. The usual rule is the adjacent land owner owns to the middle of the road but if your property was built before the others it may actually be yours. Dig the road up and be damned.


Notify the other property owners that you intend to lay services under the road and if they have any legal objections they should prove title to the road by a set date. Warn them that you intend to dispute any claims in the courts, say it with enough confidence and see if this bluff keeps them quiet.


In the mean time you can check the road ownership with the Land Registry if it's registered to see if they are bluffing. They are going to be pretty determined if they are prepared to go to court over this but it might be enough for them to back down. Let the onus of proof be on them. If you hear nothing or just bluster, then go ahead.


Still trying to find your island, anymore clues?

Should also add that if you already have pipes under the road this is an easement and you are entitled to service them and they won't know what there is there! If you still get objections threaten them with court action for obstructing your services easement and enjoyment of your property. Seems to me this is a stalemate with no legal backup that just needs pushing your way.
I think I've found it Stanleyman - general area of Morecombe Bay.
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Well done, buildersmate!


We are carefully studying your advise, everybody, and feel encouraged to have another go at sorting this out.

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buildersmate - we were amazed to open the Sunday Times magazine this morning and find that on page 10, acting as a background shot to Dave Myers' (one of the Hairy Bikers) main picture - is our building! This may or may not be the location shot that was being investigated a week ago - nobody has mentioned anything. Interesting though!!

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