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Conflicting Land Uses Triggered Neighbours’ Dispute

Different uses of land can sometimes be like oil and water, and that was certainly so in a case where a clash between shooting and equestrianism triggered a long-running and costly rights of way dispute between rural neighbours.

A couple had built a state-of-the-art equestrian centre adjoining their home and needed to use two bridleways crossing the land of their neighbour, which he used for holding shooting parties. The neighbour was concerned about the impact on his business of the escalation of the equestrian use and, in particular, disputed the couple’s right to use the tracks other than for domestic purposes.

The couple failed in a High Court bid to establish broader rights of way. However, in upholding their challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal ruled that they and their visitors were entitled to use both tracks on foot and on horseback and one of them in motor vehicles.

The couple’s land had a pre-existing equestrian use and, although their use of the tracks would ‘intensify’ if their business flourished, their neighbour had no right to object to that. The bridleways were apparent features of the land when the couple bought their home and they had in effect inherited their rights of way from previous owners.