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Driveway rights of access

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Icecube | 00:51 Wed 25th Jul 2007 | Law
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I know this is a topic often hotly debated but please can anyone give me some help?
I own a 150ft driveway that runs from the highway across the front of my property and ends at my neighbour's property next door. They have a right of access "to go pass and repass at all times and for all purposes over and along the property hereby conveyed."
The adjacent property is currently a 3-bed bungalow and a developer has applied for planning permission to demolish the existing property and build 2 x 3-bed bungalows and a 4-bed bungalow. There has been no consultation with me about access and there is no maintenance agreement as the previous owner refused to pay anything as she was a pensioner living on her own.
Recent consultation with a solicitor indicates that if the usage is similar there is nothing much I can do about it but if they decided "to build a pig farm" then I could object.
It worries the life out of me that I will very likely have heavy lorries up and down the drive and then when building is complete, potentially 10 cars plus visitors with regular access.
The council are not interested and see it as a civil matter although I have tried to engage the Highways Department as it is only a single track and no proper pedestrian access or passing places.
The other issue is that only 2 parking spaces (and no garages) have been allocated to each property and any overspill of additional cars or visitors could end up parking on my drive and blocking my garage.
I feel really overhwelmed with this situation and nervous about taking on a developer who can probably keep throwing money at a court case until they get the result they want.

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Its an unfortunately situation for you, but I believe your solicitor's advice is right. Although you own the land of the driveway, an easement has been provided to the owner of the land where the bungalow is. It is important to remember that an easement is connected to the land, not to the bungalow (that just happens to sit on the land) or to the owner of the land. Therefore there is not much to stop the holder of the legal title dividing the land into smaller plots and assigning the same easement to each of the smaller plots.
I know of a situation where a farmer wanted to develop redundant buildings as rural office units and couldn't because ownership of the land to the buildings was tied to a large house further up the lane - but he was wanting to get permission for a different use of the land. This is analogous to your solicitor's pig farm example, I think.
I also know of a situation where a jointly-owned private lane had one owner sell up and a developer put several dozen houses in, accessed off the lane. The developer paid the cost of properly tarmacing the lane surface up the point where the new houses were put in. This was a small consolidation of the existing lane owners.
Here's an idea. Have you examined the quality of the exit from the lane onto the public highway? You best bet might be to seek to demonstrate that the visibility splays are not good enough to allow a new development? Whilst there is absolutely no danger to your right of exit to the Highway at this point (existing use established), that's doesn't mean its good enough for a new development. Who owns the land to each side of the point to which the lane exits? If you do, get some pretty large trees in there sharpish. If you are friendly terms with the owner, do a deal quickly. I reckon that's your best bet the scupper the potnetial for PP. Post again if you want more on visibility splays.
One point to add. The wording you quote does not give anyone a right to park on the drive/lane. You could use this if any construction vehicles stop there, or other vehicles once the development is complete. The problem is you could have difficulty if a simple request not to park there was ignored - going to Court for an injunction could become necessary.
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Thank you very much for your helpful comments. Disappointing that it appears I have very few rights. How could i get anything changed regarding the Land Registry/Covenants? Is it fair that I should have to be solely responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the drive regardless of how many cars are using it? A solicitor's letter to the previous neighbour and the agent selling the property have been useless.
The one bit of good news is that the planning application has been withdrawn just prior to determination by the Dev.Com. (more than 4 objections). But as yet I have no idea why. Don't think it will end there though!
No it isn't fair but it should have been sorted out when the convenant was set up - i.e. a right of access but an obligation to share any upkeep maintenance.
What about my visibility splays idea? - its one of the (few) ways a cast iron obstacle to PP might be found. No suitable access, absolutely no development - end of story. What type of road does this lane-driveway emerge onto - the more major the road, the better (from your point of view). A major trunk road would be nice.
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You're right it is quite a significant issue and one that I have used in my objection. As the drive opens onto the roadway it has dense shrubbery on one side (belonging to another neighbour) and a Council-owned chainlink fence and grassland on the other - so that side is fairly visible. However, there have definitely been times when I have got to the end of the drive and pedestrians have been unaware of me emerging as they come from the shrubbery side.
The Highways department said they always comment on planning applications but in fact they never did on the first submission. So I contacted them direct and highlighted that there was a resubmission and would they please look at the drive situation. I did arrive home one day to find a man with a tape measuring the width of the drive. He was particularly unforthcoming so I can only assume he was their representative.
The other matter which may help is that there is a mains sewer running the length of the drive and straight through into my neighbour's garden. The covenant says that no building can take place over the sewer and one of the development properties would be right over the middle of it. Again, the water company did not comment on the application and I have had to contact them to encourage response.
It's terrible reading this through and I am honestly not the neighbour from hell. I would just like to find a way of limiting my liability and retaining the integrity and character of this little oasis against backgarden development.
The Highway Authority are only a consultee and respond to the Local Planning Authority when a planning application is within their 'take criteria' i.e. major applications, A roads etc... You ought to go onto your County Council website and it'll give you find all the relevant info you require under - Highways Development Control.
I'll fish out some info on visibility splays for you and post it. As far as I know, Highways are always a consultee if the Application involves a new or extended level of traffic onto the highway.
Sewers - that's a different issue and one on which you might have leverage. Sewers are nothing to do with Planning Permission. Please tell us what the arrangement is for this sewer pipe. If it is in your driveway, its unlikely to be part of a public sewer. It probably joins the public system at the highway. What rights does your bungalow neighbour have in his Land Title regarding this sewer? Who maintains it if it blocks? How big is it - there's a relatively low limit on the number of houses linkable to a 110mm pipe.
What about water and electricity supplies - how do these get to the site in question now. Again not a Planning issue but one that might prevent the development.
The attached document explains about visibility splays rather well. This one comes from Northamptonshire County Council. Other County Highways Depts may be slightly different but not by much - the general priciples under which they work come down from central Government. Your Developer next door has to find a way of meeting this.
http://www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyre s/FE06671A-D4E8-419A-AFEA-7404DE05916C/0/Desig nGuideforResidentialRoads.pdf
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Thanks for all that information. It looks very useful and have picked up some good points already but will have a more detailed study of it over the weekend.
Regarding the sewer, I have been told that it is a mains sewer for part of the estate. The Charges Register refers to it as "a sewage sewer consisting of a cast iron pipe of an internal diameter of 24 inches including a manhole". The Council originally had responsibility and now it appears to be the Water Company as they were testing the flow a month or two back by sticking rods down into it.
Oh yes, any sewer of that size is almost certainly maintained / owned by the water company. Back to Plan A then - visibility splays.
24" is a very large sewer. If it really is that size it must be serving a pretty large area.

You don't say how the drive is surfaced. Unless it is constructed to something like road standards it is possible that heavy construction lorries going up and down it could compact the soil & damage the sewer. You could consider using this as an argument to try & get the water company on your side, but I don't know how it would play out in planning or legal terms.
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The driveway is 4.1m wide and described as burled gravel. Certainly not up to construction traffic, although the architects consider it to be a small project and therefore construction not significant.
The visibility splays info was very good and will certainly be useful in the next round.
Thanks to everyone who helped me out on this. I've certainly learnt a fair bit and appreciate your expertise.
The architects are presumably working for the developer, so they would say that, wouldn't they. An independent view would be more realistic.

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