FARMYARD PLOT FEUD
AN ERRINGDEN man who has spent his dead mother's entire life savings in a bitter legal war with his neighbours over a three-metre-wide strip of land was at the centre of an Appeal Court case.
Keith James, of Great Jumps Farm, near Hebden Bridge, last year achieved victory over his neighbours, Andrew and Cheryl Bradford, of Great Jumps Barn, when a judge ruled the 3.7m wide "cobbled area" between their homes was his.
But the hotly disputed plot sits directly outside Mr and Mrs Bradford's barn conversion -and they say the ruling means they cannot even get in through their own front door without trespassing on Mr James's land.
Now, six years after the dispute originally broke out, and five court hearings later, Mr James says he has spent around 60,000, his deceased mother Nora's life savings, on fighting for the plot, which he argues gives him necessary access to his farm.
Court warfare between the neighbours resumed last Thursday as Mr and Mrs Bradford launched their bid to overturn last year's ruling at London's Civil Appeal Court.
Stephen Howd, representing the Bradfords, told top judges the land is 'of real significance' to the couple. "It allows them to park vehicles outside their home. Even more importantly, it allows them access to their front door, which opens on to the cobbled area."
He said the Bradfords had moved into the property in 1999 and relations had initially been good between them and Mr James, but things began to turn 'sour' in 2002.
Mr Howd added that the dispute essentially boiled down to two sets of plans dating back to the 1970s, which each showed the border as being in a different place.
At Halifax County Court last year, Judge Ibbotson heard that the Bradfords and Mr James had both alleged harassment against each other.
He said: "It is a depressing catalogue which leads me to conclude that, if the parties had spent a fraction of the time taken up on this aspect of the case in trying to resolve the boundary issue, or trying to reach a workable compromise, they and their lawyers would have been more profitably employed.
"As I sat through this part of the evidence, the expression 'six of one, half a dozen of the other' repeatedly came to mind."
Judge Ibbotson said that Mr James's grandmother, Dora, who owned the farm from 1976 onwards, let her then neighbour, Mrs Linda Fox, use the cobbled area - but that she may not have realised it was hers, or may have let Mrs Fox use it as a 'good neighbour'.
Ruling in Mr James's favour, he said that, if the strip had been 'excluded' from the farm, access to the farm could well have been restricted by the owner of the barn.
Matthew Hall, representing Mr James at the Civil Court of Appeal, said the Bradfords could 'just as easily' move their front door to the other side of the barn and urged Lord Justice Mummery, sitting with Lord Justice Jacob and Lord Justice Wilson, to uphold Judge Ibbotson's ruling.
Both the Bradfords and Mr James are now on tenterhooks after the three Appeal Court judges reserved their decision until a later, unspecified, date.
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