Am I entitled to block access to the field I’m inheriting?
Property Clinic: Any such proposal should comply with planning requirements
Restricting access to one’s property can be problematic where a right of way exists.
I am set to inherit a field which has a driveway access. The house beside it has a stone path with several steps down leading out on to my driveway, approximately one metre from the roadway and one metre from where the gate into my field is. I want to build a stone wall and pillars with electric gates but doing this will block these steps. I am also concerned about the safety of this walkway leading out on to the driveway as there will be frequent traffic on it. What should I do?
Patrick Shines writes: This first thing to recognise in relation to your proposal is that you want to make changes to a situation that has existed for some time and that these changes will affect another party. You did not say how long you believe the steps have been in place, but I will assume that they have been in place for several years.
It is possible that the owner/s of the adjoining house have acquired an easement, ie a right of way on the driveway between the line at which the steps intersect the edge of the driveway, and the line at which the driveway joins the edge of the road, which I assume is a public road.
If the title to the field is registered with the Land Registry you should check Part 3 of the folio, on which the right of way, if registered, will be entered as a burden. The entry will include an instrument number, which the current owner of the field, or representative, if applicable, is entitled to obtain. The instrument will set out details and conditions, if any, attached to the right of way.
If the right of way is not registered or not otherwise documented in either the deeds or by separate agreement, the houseowners may claim a right of way by prescription, ie by long use for 20 years or more. It may be difficult to disprove such a claim.
Irrespective of the existence or otherwise, of the right of way, you will need to engage with the houseowners. You should initially consider your proposals from their perspective and how it would impact you if you were the houseowner. You should therefore seek to arrive at an arrangement that will accommodate them.
I do not have sufficient details of the entrance to suggest a detailed design arrangement. However, if you suggest placing the proposed gates on the field side of the steps and provide a suitable gate in the wall at the steps it may resolve matters. It is necessary that the outcome does not inconvenience the houseowners or create any undue impediment to their use of the right of way, without their agreement.
You say that you are concerned about safety on the walkway leading to the driveway as there will be frequent traffic on the driveway. As this frequent traffic will be due to your use of the driveway there is an onus on you to provide appropriate safety measures. A traffic warning sign and a footpath or protective railing in the entrance between the pedestrian gate and the road may suffice.
You will be entitled to construct your new gateway, subject to any planning requirements, as it will be your property, but you will be obliged to accommodate the houseowners, without unreasonable restriction, unless you can establish that they do not have a right of way.
It is possible however, that the houseowners will either not claim a right of way or, on the other hand, will claim one but be willing to cooperate and facilitate your proposals.
Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer, and a member of SCSI, scsi.ie