Adverse Possession dispute

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Brief 199371 Adverse Possession Salchester City Council purchased the freehold estate in a large plot of vacant land in 1980. The title to the land is unregistered. The intention was to develop it as a state of the art sports complex. Unfortunately, ongoing disputes with Central Government about the availability of funding have led to delays and, at the present time (December 2003) the land remains undeveloped. Harrison Haulage Ltd runs their business from a depot immediately adjoining the Council’s land. In November 1991 they started parking their vehicles on a portion of the land and effectively treated the land as their own. As their business expanded they made more and more use of the land and, in January 1992, they erected a portakabin on it to provide additional office space. In July 1992, following several attacks on their office from vandals, they erected a fence around the portion of land and fully incorporated it into their own property. The Council have written to Harrison on several occasions, informing them that they are trespassing and demanding that they vacate the land. Harrison have ignored all their letters and privately say that they intend to stay on the land until such time as the Council eventually develop the sports complex. Advise the Council about the risk (if any) of Harrison acquiring rights of adverse possession in the land and about any action they should now take to protect their position. Your advice should take the form of a report. This should be in the region of 1,500 words in length and should, under no circumstances, exceed 2,000 words. The dispute between Salchester City Council and Harrison Haulage Ltd could be rightly regarded as being an unintended result of the difficulty that Salchester City Council has had in developing its land into a sports centre complex. The sports centre project was first proposed in 1980, yet so far has failed to materialise due to disagreements with central government over funding. The impasse between Salchester City Council and central government has allowed Harrison Haulage Ltd the opportunity to use the piece of council land nearest to its own business premises even though that company knows that it is trespassing (Martin, 2003 p. 16). It would certainly be in the best interests of Harrison Haulage Ltd to continue its adverse possession of the land they were currently using, as they would have to locate larger premised at a different site otherwise. The sooner that Salchester City Council could remove Harrison Haulage Ltd from its land the better its chances of avoiding losing the land through adverse possession. For continuous occupation of property or land for a long period is the strongest factor in the granting of adverse possession (Stevens & Pearce, 2000 p. 61). Harrison Haulage Ltd’s occupation of the council land is not only saving it money, the occupation is also costing Salchester City Council potential revenue. If Salchester City Council could regain full occupation of the land site the construction of the sports centre complex could arguably commence earlier.

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