Court of Appeal in Parmar and others v Upton [2015] was asked to consider the application of the hedge and ditch rule in a boundary dispute.

The claimant Mr Upton owned the bulk of Birchy Farm near Solihull. Mr Parmar purchased land immediately to the soth east of the Farm in 1997. Following Mr Parmar’s residential development on his land, Mr Upton brought an action in trespass claiming that the development had trespassed on his boundary.

It was common ground that there was at all times since 1925 a drainage ditch running along the disputed boundary and extending beyond it. The judge also found that a hedge had existed along the disputed boundary immediately north of the ditch. He therefore applied the hedge and ditch rule.

The hedge and ditch rule says that where two properties are divided by a hedge and a ditch or a bank and ditch, there is a presumption that the boundary is along the opposite edge of the ditch from the hedge or bank.

The appellant Mr Parmar appealed against a decision resolving the boundary dispute in favour of Mr Upton but the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal saying that:

  • The judge in the county court was correct to find that there was enough topography along the disputed boundary to permit the hedge and ditch rule to apply and there was nothing to rebut the hedge and ditch presumptions.
  • The plan attached to the 1997 conveyance warned readers that it was for identification purposes only. It could not therefore be relied upon as delineating the precise boundaries so that in any boundary dispute, recourse must be had to the drawing of inferences from topographical features, or other evidence, including inferences derived from the hedge and ditch rule. The ‘intelligent observer’ would know that the land was being conveyed along an ownership boundary created many years ago marked by an old hedge and ditch.

Comment

This case is a good example of how the hedge and ditch rule is applied to the facts. It also illustrates the value of the rule in enabling neighbouring owners of rural land to avoid the cost and stress of litigating a boundary dispute!

If you have any questions or wish to discuss any issues raised in this blog please contact Johanne Spittle. Johanne is a Director with our Property Disputes team and a member of the firm’s Agriculture and Landed Estates team who has extensive experience in bringing and defending claims involving rural property.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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