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01st May 2020

The Tale of Poste Hotel Ltd v Tracey Anne Cousins

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This is a case of competing rights and whether a right to park can trump a right of way. Ultimately it didn’t as the right of way had been in use longer than the right to park. However, it illustrates the problems experienced by business needing access over third party land used by others. It also demonstrates how landowners who own an accessway can find themselves in the middle of a dispute not of their making.

Poste owned the George Hotel in Stamford described by Daniel Defoe (the author or Robinson Crusoe) as “one of the greatest Inns in England”. It fronts on to the High Street but with rear access possible from an unadopted road called Church Court. Mrs Cousins lives at 67 High Street which can also be accessed from Church Court. They and their prior owners had both used Church Court to get to their properties for many years (the Hotel since 1951 and Number 67 since 1976). There seemed agreement that both properties had rights of way by long use however Mrs Cousins also parked in Church Court.

This didn’t seem to have caused a problem until comparatively recently when she blocked the doors to what the Hotel had started using as its laundry. Poste claimed interference with its right of way and asked for a declaration that Mrs Cousins had no right to park. In turn, Mrs Cousins claimed for the benefit of Number 67 a general right to park in Church Court (including in front of the laundry) that prevailed over Poste’s right of way.

The Courts haven’t historically liked giving people rights to park by long use however one was found here. More surprisingly it wasn’t in a specific place and the suggestion is that Mrs Cousins has a legal right to compete for a space with whoever else comes along. Poste also won as the judge found Mrs Cousins couldn’t interfere with its older right of way by blocking the laundry doors.

As is often the case with litigation of this kind it is suspected that neither party was satisfied by the result. It does highlight the need for vigilance in preventing people acquiring rights that can disrupt a landowner’s use. To quote Daniel Defoe again, “It is never too late to be wise” and so consideration should be given in similar circumstances to putting up signs saying, “No Parking”, writing letters asking people not to park to prevent the assertion there was no challenge to the parking or, where the parking space is owned, granting a parking licence which can be easily terminated when access is needed.

For more information please contact James Frankland on 01223 532738 or click here to email James.