Woman ordered to let neighbour use her driveway so he can build two new houses next her home
A LAWYER has lost a bitter battle with her neighbour after a judge ordered her to let him use her driveway to build two houses.
Zoe Bucknell clashed with beef farmer Mark Stoneham over his plans to covert a barn into two properties next to her farmhouse, while using a private road as access for construction vehicles.
Mrs Bucknell argued that “noise disturbance, vibrations and fumes” from the traffic on her 180ft-pathway posed a threat to her peace and quiet.
The horse lover also insisted it would damage the foundations £1.3million country property near Sevenoaks, Kent, and hamper her enjoyment of riding.
She sued, claiming she was entitled to preserve the tranquillity that surrounded the Grade II-listed home, which she bought nine years ago.
But judge Paul Matthews threw out her bid to ban the project, saying she is “not automatically entitled to the quiet” she enjoyed in 2014.
London’s High Court heard how Mr Stoneham’s company bought the yard and barns next door to Mrs Bucknell from his family in 2020, with plans to develop them.
Representing Alchemy Estates (Holywell) Ltd, Nicholas Isaac KC said that a right of way over his client’s drive was granted “for all time and for all purposes” to his father and uncle in 1972 so he was fine to complete the build and provide access to the new houses.
However, Richard Clegg, for Mrs Bucknell, told the judge this would be “wrongful use” and would put her “forever home” in “jeopardy”.
In 2021, she obtained an interim injunction banning construction vehicles from using the driveway to access the barn conversion site.
But Mr Stoneham pressed ahead with his plans, making an alternative access track over nearby fields.
She then used at the High Court, seeking a permanent ban to traffic on her driveway, to stop anyone living in the two houses from ever using it, and forcing the cattle farmer to pay damages.
Mr Stoneham fought the claim, insisting his neighbour was “catastrophising” the situation.
Handing victory to his company, the judge said: “Demolition and construction are facts of everyday life, and there must be give and take in relation to them.
“It is clear from the evidence of the traffic management experts that the additional use imposed on the driveway by the habitation of two houses built on the yard would be very small in comparison with the existing use.
“There is no evidence that any damage would be caused to the [driveway] surface by the increase in traffic movements as a result of two extra houses being inhabited.
“Use by the occupants of two houses on the yard would, in my judgment, not interfere unreasonably with use by others having the like right, nor with the enjoyment by the claimant of her land.
“I do not consider that it would amount to excessive use or that it would cause an actionable nuisance, even in the locality as it was in 2014, or indeed 1972.
“The claimant is not automatically entitled to the maintenance of the same rural peace and quiet that she enjoyed when she bought in 2014.
“A grant of a right of way is not to be restricted to access to the land merely for such purposes as were reasonably required at the date of the grant.”
The ruling means that the build can be completed using the driveway as access.
The new occupants of the new houses can also use the drive.
What are my rights?
THERE is no criminal law against someone parking on or using your driveway without consent, so there are technically no fines or penalties.
It can be considered trespass, but the council can only intervene if it’s an obstruction on the road – they can act when a car is blocking a driveway while parked on a public road but not if it’s in a private space, for example.
Determine where property boundaries lie by checking the deeds to your property using the Land Registry.
Then you can speak to your neighbour to get their permission or try to resolve the matter.
If that fails, you can look at taking things to court – but it can be expensive.
Your neighbours can’t stop you from making changes to your property that are within the law, but they can affect how and when your works are carried out.
You don’t need to tell your neighbour about minor changes like plastering or electrical wiring, but you should notify them if building on the boundary of your properties, working on a party wall or digging below and near to the foundation level of their house.