Disputes between neighbours frequently inflict enormous emotional and financial harm on all involved. A High Court dispute concerning use of a shared driveway showed why any lawyer would advise sensible negotiation as a far better alternative to litigation.
A couple's right of way over the driveway, by which they accessed their rural home, was restricted to passage on foot or by private motor vehicles. Their neighbour, with whom they shared the driveway, launched proceedings against them alleging that they were in long-standing breach of that restriction by permitting its use by heavy lorries, plant and machinery. The couple asserted that their use of the right of way was entirely lawful.
Ruling on the dispute, the Court found that the right of way permitted any reasonable and otherwise lawful vehicular use of the driveway for the purpose of maintaining or repairing the couple's home or otherwise enabling its use as a private dwelling. That included use of the driveway by, amongst others, visitors' cars, postal vans, trade vehicles and lorries required to empty the property's septic tank.
The right of way, however, did not embrace large vehicles which might be used in construction or demolition works unconnected to the couple's day-to-day domestic enjoyment of their home. The physical size of the driveway rendered it unsuitable for use by vehicles exceeding 2.6 metres in width or 10 tons in weight. The Court noted that, if the couple wished large vehicles to pass along the driveway, they would be expected to seek their neighbour's permission in a friendly manner.
Lamenting the falling out between the neighbours, who were formerly on good terms, the Court noted that such disputes commonly grow out of all proportion from small seeds and are inevitably made worse by litigation. In order to resolve any further issues between them, both sides were strongly urged to seek creative solutions via mediation or a binding process of alternative dispute resolution.