Lordships of the manor, whilst sounding grand, are often viewed as arcane titles with little real significance in terms of property rights. However, that is not always so and, in one High Court case, a lordship which was bought for just £100 almost proved a fatal stumbling block to a proposed residential development.
As lords of the manor – a title they had acquired from their father, who bought it in the 1960s – a brother and sister owned the freehold of a scenic common. They grew concerned after the owner of a house which adjoined the common was granted planning permission to knock it down and erect four terraced houses in its place.
They argued that the boundary of the proposed development would encroach onto the common. They accepted that the house owner had a right of way over a rough track, which crossed the common, in order to gain access to her property. They argued, however, that that right was limited to the use of a single dwelling and that increased traffic generated by the development would damage the track.
In resolving the boundary issue, the Court considered ordnance survey maps, title deeds and plans of the area, some of which dated back well over a century. It found on the evidence that the correct boundary was in the position contended for by the house owner and that the development would thus not encroach onto the common.
Turning to the right of way issue, the Court found that the house owner's plans would not involve a radical alteration of her property's character or identity or an excessive use of the track. Construction vehicles had used the track in the past and such use would not entail a public nuisance or anything akin to it.
The house owner enjoyed an easement which allowed her to run a drain under the common and, given that it would have sufficient capacity to serve the sewerage needs of the new homes, the Court found that they too would benefit from that right. The Court's ruling paved the way for the development to proceed.