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Buckinghamshire County Council v Moran

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Buckinghamshire County Council v Moran [1990] Ch. 623

ADVERSE POSSESSION – INTENTION TO POSSESS – LIMITATIONS – STANDARD OF PROOF

Facts

In 1955 the claimant (C) acquired a plot of land with a view to building a road diversion. The land was left vacant for many years. The roadside of the plot was fenced but there was no fence between the garden of a house owned by the defendant's (D) predecessor in title and C’s plot: D treated the plot as part of his garden, although he was aware of its true ownership.

In January 1976 D replied to an enquiry of C that he understood that he was entitled to use the land until the road was built. C refuted D’s claimed right to use the land but did not assert actual possession until October 1985, claiming possession. D counter-claimed adverse possession for more than 12 years, arguing that C’s claim was barred by the Limitation Act 1980 s.15. C responded by arguing that D could not make out factual possession, as his use was not inconsistent with C’s plan to develop the plot.

Issues

Amongst other things, the Court of Appeal were required to determine whether, for the purposes of making out a claim of adverse possession, it is necessary that a claimant establish his possession and use of the property is inconsistent with the purposes for which the property is held by the paper owner.

Held

There was no special rule of law that an owner of land who intended to use it for a particular purpose at some future date could not lose title to a squatter whose acts did not substantially interfere with the owner's plans for future use. Where a claimant could demonstrate factual possession and an intention exclude the world at large, including the paper owner, he could establish adverse possession, whether or not he was aware of the owner's planned use of the property.

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