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A nightmare in Swindon…

My partner and I have occupied our property for 48 years.  We purchased it from Swindon Council in 1990 and in 1998, we also purchased from them a small piece of overgrown waste land at the bottom of our garden. We were aware of the existence of a now long disused public footpath on this land.

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The local Council had, previously, extinguished some of this path in 1977 resulting in a cul-de-sac footpath that ended in the middle of our garden.  In March 1998, a Council Member made a site visit to discuss various items.  He informed us that this piece of land was still subject to Highway rights, explaining that the occupants of the property at the end of our garden would need to be able to access this piece of land, via their garden gate at the bottom of their garden, in order to maintain their boundary fence.  He said that, if we agreed, he could make a reference in the Transfer Title.

We readily agreed since there had never been any intrusion at all apart from the elderly occupant.  He very occasionally ventured out of his garden in order to paint his fence. This arrangement worked well for 18 years and a good neighbourly relationship developed between us and him.

This period of time was witness to a steady improvement in our garden facilities.  By 2015 (in time for our retirement) we had constructed a large, double glazed and heated conservatory that looked out onto a neat and tasteful garden of which we were both immensely proud.

Then, with no prior warning, I was approached by a rather angry wife of the above gentleman and their four adult children with a demand that they will now traverse our garden (to and from their end gate via our side gate) whenever they wanted and we could not stop them.  I protested and this resulted in a physical assault upon my person necessitating Police involvement and a crime reference number.

This however was merely the start of a campaign of harassment.  They persisted in crossing my garden en masse back and forth with up to 8 adults (and dogs) for no apparent reason. They were even crossing at night with torches and allowing their dogs to foul our garden.

We then received a letter from their Solicitor informing us that, should we attempt stop them (and/or their visitors) then they would apply for a Mandatory Injunction against us.  So now, it became a Legal battle.  They persisted in transgressing our garden saying they had every right to do so since it was written into the Deeds of their property.  When we started to experience damage to our property, we decided to have a CCTV system installed.

It is fair to state that our deeds did, in fact also mention an existing ‘Rights of Way’ from the rear of the aforementioned property. But, it also stated that this Right of Way was reserved solely to assist the local Council in laying pipes, wires and cables under or over our land.

During Litigation between our two Solicitors, it transpired after all that this ‘right’ was not, actually on their Deeds.  Also, the footpath was only 1.2 metres wide and did not abut any part of our neighbour’s property.  Furthermore, there was no mention of any existing pedestrian rights from the rear of their garden, nor had there ever been.  However, the transgressions still continued, now recorded. When they became aware that their actions were being recorded, the anti-social behaviour did reduce.

By now though, the damage was done.  The worry, stress and costs were all having a serious effect upon both of us, but it only got worse and again we again had to involve the Police.  Our Solicitor said that we could apply for an injunction or I could simply block their gate.  He did warn us though that this last action could initiate retaliation.  However, by now we were so desperate to put a stop to the intrusions that I constructed a blockage that, whilst it did not actually touch their gate, it did prevent them from opening it.

Retaliation did occur – almost immediately.  On a quiet Sunday morning, men with tools entered our garden via our side gate and proceeded to remove the obstruction.  My partner became hysterical and I feared that she was having a nervous breakdown so, I called the Police.  Amazingly they were on site within a matter of minutes.  I say ‘they’ due to fact that there was also a camera and sound crew and Police PR persons.  By coincidence, a team filming for Channel 4’s ‘999-what’s your emergency?’ was in our Street!

After the Police viewed our CCTV evidence, they told our neighbours that, if they entered our property again, then they would face having an harassment order being placed upon them.  Also, if they did feel that they had a case, then they should try to resolve it legally.

There were now no further garden intrusions but I was subjected to harassment following some chance meetings elsewhere.  After 9 months, we were beginning to believe that it was all over, but we were wrong.  The family complained to the local Council’s Solicitor.

We received a letter ordering us to remove the obstruction within 14 days or face legal or other action.  This, of course, only resulted in more stress, anxiety and expense for us. How much more trauma could we endure?  Not much.

I am a big man with, so I thought, a strong mental capacity.  But my intense anger added to my immense concern for the mental wellbeing of my partner actually reduced me to tears.  During this period of time, she was undergoing radio iodine and chemotherapy treatment for thyroid cancer.  This dispute could not have occurred at a worse time.

Under all this mental stress, I collapsed and was rushed into hospital where I was diagnosed with stress related angina.  My partner was left at home alone to try to cope with all this.  We had already been prescribed anti-depressants and were attending stress management classes.  My partner was by now becoming suicidal.  Were it not for the kindness of neighbours staying at her side, she may well have tried.

All the while, Litigation continued slowly and with no apparent sense of urgency or concern with respect to our desperate need resolve the issue quickly.  Finally, at last, we received some good news: the Council Solicitor wrote to say that the Council would be taking no further action and that, from then on, any dispute would have to be resolved between the two parties.  With our garden now once more secure and with no further Solicitor’s letters, our peace was restored and we both began to recover.

Recently, we did receive a letter from our neighbours asking if they could walk across our garden if they promised to behave themselves!  My reply was prompt and in the negative! (A single word sufficed. I was tempted to use two).  During this awful time:

  • We had to stop our grandchildren playing in the garden
  • Two burglaries and damage to our garden occurred again involving the Police.
  • And, worst of all, we both suffered long term damage our health. If we did not actually suffer a nervous breakdown, we came so close.
  • We suffered loss of privacy.
  • My partner was afraid to venture into her beloved garden for fear of another altercation

All Intrusive Paths are a concern, and cause potential disruption to both landowner and tenant.  Local Councils in the UK need to be given guidelines to divert or extinguish troublesome paths that may endanger the public or cause concern to landowners through unknown persons coming so close to their homes.  Common sense and appreciation of the anxieties suffered by the property owner should be a matter of priority.

Sadly, we are not alone. There are many with similar problems.  Some vindictive people do seem to derive pleasure from causing others distress.  They appear oblivious of just what harm they do cause.

Good luck to you all.
Nigel Wood & Shiela Shepherd

Title for this Case Study here

My partner and I have occupied our property for 48 years. We purchased it from Swindon Council in 1990 and in 1998, we also purchased from them a small piece of overgrown waste land at the bottom of our garden. We were aware of the existence of a now long disused public footpath on this land.

Read More/Less

The local Council had, previously, extinguished some of this path in 1977 resulting in a cul-de-sac footpath that ended in the middle of our garden. In March 1998, a Council Member made a site visit to discuss various items. He informed us that this piece of land was still subject to Highway rights. He explained that the occupants of the property at the end of our garden would need to be able to access this piece of land, via their garden gate at the bottom of their garden, in order to maintain their boundary fence. He said that, if we agreed, he could make a reference in the Transfer Title.

We readily agreed since there had never been any intrusion at all apart from the elderly occupant. He very occasionally ventured out of his garden in order to paint his fence. This arrangement worked well for 18 years and a good neighbourly relationship developed between us and him.

This period of time was witness to a steady improvement in our garden facilities. By 2015 (in time for our retirement), we had constructed a large, double glazed and heated conservatory that looked out onto a neat and tasteful garden of which we were both immensely proud.

Then, with no prior warning, I was approached by a rather angry wife of the above gentleman and their four adult children with a demand that they will now traverse our garden (to and from their end gate via our side gate) whenever they wanted and we could not stop them. I protested and this resulted in a physical assault upon my person necessitating Police involvement and a crime reference number.

This however was merely the start of a campaign of harassment. They persisted in crossing my garden en masse back and forth with up to 8 adults (and dogs) for no apparent reason. They were even crossing at night with torches and allowing their dogs to foul our garden.

We then received a letter from their Solicitor informing us that, should we attempt stop them (and/or their visitors) then they would apply for a Mandatory Injunction against us. So now, it became a Legal battle. They persisted in transgressing our garden saying they had every right to do so since it was written into the Deeds of their property. When we started to experience damage to our property, we decided to have a CCTV system installed.

It is fair to state that our deeds did, in fact also mention an existing ‘Rights of Way’ from the rear of the aforementioned property. But, it also stated that this Right of Way was reserved solely to assist the local Council in laying pipes, wires and cables under or over our land.

During Litigation between our two Solicitors, it transpired after all that this ‘right’ was not, actually on their Deeds. Also, the footpath was only 1.2 metres wide and did not abut any part of our neighbour’s property. Furthermore, there was no mention of any existing pedestrian rights from the rear of their garden, nor had there ever been.

However, the transgressions still continued, now recorded. When they became aware that their actions were being recorded, the anti-social behaviour did reduce.

By now though, the damage was done. The worry, stress and costs were all having a serious effect upon both of us. But, it only got worse. By now, we again, had to involve the Police. Our Solicitor said that we could apply for an injunction or I could simply block their gate. He did warn us though that this last action could initiate retaliation. However, by now we were so desperate to put a stop to the intrusions that I constructed a blockage that, whilst it did not actually touch their gate, it did prevent them from opening it.

Retaliation did occur- almost immediately. On a quiet Sunday morning, men with tools entered our garden via our side gate and proceeded to remove the obstruction. My partner became hysterical and I feared that she was having a nervous breakdown so, I called the Police. Amazingly they were on site within a matter of minutes. I say ‘they’ due to fact that there was also a camera and sound crew and Police PR persons. By coincidence, a team filming for Channel 4’s ‘999 – what’s your emergency?’ was in our Street!

After the Police viewed our CCTV evidence, they told our neighbours that, if they entered our property again, then they would face having an harassment order being placed upon them. Also, if they did feel that they had a case, then they should try to resolve it legally.

There were now no further garden intrusions but I was subjected to harassment following some chance meetings elsewhere. After 9 months, we were beginning to believe that it was all over, but, we were wrong. The family complained to the local Council’s Solicitor.

We received a letter ordering us to remove the obstruction within 14 days or face legal or other action. This, of course, only resulted in more stress, anxiety and expense for us. How much more trauma could we endure? Not much.

I am a big man with, so I thought, a strong mental capacity. But, my intense anger added to my immense concern for the mental wellbeing of my partner actually reduced me to tears.

During this period of time, she was undergoing radio iodine and chemotherapy treatment for thyroid cancer. This dispute could not have occurred at a worse time.

Under all this mental stress, I collapsed and was rushed into hospital. Where I was diagnosed with stress related angina. My partner was left at home alone to try to cope with all this. We had already been prescribed anti –depressants and were attending stress management classes. My partner was by now becoming suicidal. Were it not for the kindness of neighbours staying at her side, she may well have tried.

All the while, Litigation continued slowly and with no apparent sense of urgency or concern with respect to our desperate need resolve the issue quickly. Finally, at last, we received some good news. The Council Solicitor wrote to say that the Council would be taking no further action and that, from then on, any dispute would have to be resolved between the two parties. With our garden now once more secure and with no further Solicitor’s letters, our peace was restored and we both began to recover.

Recently, we did receive a letter from our neighbours asking if they could walk across our garden if they promised to behave themselves! My reply was prompt and in the negative! (A single word sufficed. I was tempted to use two) During this awful time:

  • We had to stop our grandchildren playing in the garden
  • Two burglaries and damage to our garden occurred again involving the Police.
  • And, worst of all, we both suffered long term damage our health. If we did not actually suffer a nervous breakdown, we came so close.
  • We suffered loss of privacy.
  • My partner was afraid to venture into her beloved garden for fear of another altercation

All Intrusive Paths are a concern and cause potential disruption to both landowner and tenant.  Local Councils in the UK need to be given guidelines to divert or extinguish troublesome paths that may endanger the public or cause concern to landowners through unknown persons coming so close to their homes. Common sense and appreciation of the anxieties suffered by the property owner should be a matter of priority.

Sadly, we are not alone. There are many of us with similar problems. Some vindictive people do seem to derive pleasure from causing others distress. They appear oblivious of just what harm they do cause.

Good luck to you all.
Nigel Wood & Shiela Shepherd