The pair are £30,000 in debt after a bizarre planning row with a neighbour (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)
A couple has been left in thousands of pounds worth of debt after they were found to have ‘trespassed’ into their neighbour’s garden.
Philip New, 52, and Denise New, 47, have been forced to remortgage their home to cover the cost of the boundary dispute.
The couple and their two children have lived in their three-bedroom home in Benfleet, Essex, for 16 years.
But a decision to replace the fence between the two properties resulted in years of arguing back and forth with their neighbours over just six inches of land.
Philip and Denise claim they simply decided to replace the fence panels in 2010 because they were overgrown and rotting.
Two years later, when Philip was about to finish the job, his neighbours said there was an issue with the boundary.
The News claim they used the original cement posts which had stood for around 50 years, but their neighbours disagreed and a decade-long feud ensued.
After years of ‘heated’ arguments, the couples agreed to do mediation and drew up a written agreement to have a land surveyor determine the boundary in 2015.
The location of this fence has led to a lengthy court case that has cost tens of thousands of pounds (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)
However, the surveyor’s findings did not go in the News’ favour, with the document determining the boundary should run directly over a drain system.
Philip and Denise rejected the agreement because they said it would mean they would have to pay to re-route the entire drainage system.
Philip said: ‘It went a bit quiet for about three years and then in 2018 we got a court summons for trespass, damages and the declaration of the boundary line.’
After receiving the court summons, the couple attended their first hearing in February 2021.
The couple lost the case with the judge determining that the agreement was binding and ordering them to abide by the new boundary.
But Philip and Denise appealed the judgement on the basis the surveyor didn’t have jurisdiction under the settlement agreement because they weren’t a land surveyor.
The appeal resulted in a hearing at the High Court in May 2021.
The appeal judge acknowledged that there were ‘difficulties’ with the ruling given the agreement clearly states ‘land surveyor’, thereby ‘unambiguously [requiring] that the expert appointed under it should be a chartered land surveyor’.
But they ultimately decided to dismiss the point because the News had accepted the appointment of a surveying company rather than an ‘individual expert’.
The News have refused to back down over the row despite spiralling costs (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)
The judge ruled that this showed that the couple agreed to an arrangement that ‘varied from the strict terms of the agreement’.
Philip and Denise were then ordered to pay their neighbours’ personal costs from the proceedings as well as the legal costs to the company that provided their neighbours with free representation.
The judge also ruled that they weren’t allowed to appeal again.
Now, Philip and Denise are waiting for the final assessment of the legal costs as well as trying to come to an out of court settlement with their neighbours in an attempt to reduce the final bill.
Phil said the process had taken its toll.
‘The amount of land they’ve been after at the absolute most has been roughly six inches, it’s miniscule,’ he said.
‘We’ve had to re-mortgage because of the legal fees. We got suckered in because we thought we would win the case and then we didn’t and we didn’t have any choice but to appeal.
‘So far it’s probably cost us in the region of about £25,000 to £30,000 and that’s without the final cost – if it goes really wrong it could be another £30,000 to £40,000.
‘It’s driven us nuts and taken over our lives. We don’t seem to talk about anything except this. It’s a nightmare, it doesn’t go away, we live and breathe it.’
The neighbours have been feuding over just six inches of land (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)
The unnamed neighbours argued Philip and Denise moved the fence when they replaced the old panels and the concrete posts did not signify where the boundary should be.
They said that they too had been left in tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt as not all of their legal fees had been pro bono.
The neighbours said: ‘We’ve had this for 11 years. They’ve lost and they don’t like it, they’re very bad losers.
‘They’ve lost, they’ve got to get it into their heads the pair of them.’
The neighbours said all of the judges had backed them in court and it was simply that Phil and Denise couldn’t accept this.
‘It’s been through a very senior county court judge who awarded the case to us, they then took it to the high court where a high court judge ruled that the county judge was right and then it’s been to one of the highest judges in this country who also threw it out,’ they added.
‘So you’re telling me three senior judges have got it wrong but Mr New has got it right? I don’t think so.
‘He’s lost the case and he won’t give us our land back. He’s not entitled to put a fence up. We want our fence put back.
‘Six inches is a lot of land and equally he has no right to take it.’
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