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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Big legal bill for Cumbrian man after garden gate battle

A courtroom battle over a garden gate has landed a man with a £30,000 legal bill.

Garden gate houses row photo
The terraced houses in Howard Road, Brampton

Mary McCabe took her neighbour Andrew Todd to court after he erected a 6ft high garden fence without a gate between her back garden and his while she was away on holiday.

The fence replaced a wire one with a wooden gate which had been there for years, Carlisle County Court heard.

Mr Todd’s home is at the end of the terrace and all previous occupants had enjoyed a right of way across his back garden and through the gate.

But the gate’s disappearance meant Mrs McCabe and any visitors could no longer get access to the rear of her mid-terraced home in Howard Road, Brampton.

So Mrs McCabe, a 54-year-old former hospital chef, has had to drag 55lb bags of coal through her kitchen to the coal bunker at the rear, as having to take her bike and wheelie bin through her home.

But after a three-day court hearing, which heard evidence from Mrs McCabe's window cleaner, her coal delivery man, and former Howard Road residents, Judge John Park ruled that her back garden gate should be reinstated.

He also awarded Mrs McCabe damages of £1,500.

Mr Todd’s legal costs are expected to be around £30,000, making the new gate he now has to install probably the most expensive in Cumbria.

The court was told that legal papers from 1991 showed there was a right of way across the back of Mr Todd’s house and through a gate giving access to the rear of the mid-terraced house which Mrs McCabe bought in 2002. She regularly used the path at the side of his house and the back garden gate before he bought the house in 2007.

The window cleaner and the coal man also used it.

But since moving in, the court heard, Mr Todd had on numerous occasions obstructed the path.

In June 2007, he put a padlock on his front gate preventing Mrs McCabe from using the side path without his permission.

In August, 2009, the court heard, while Mrs McCabe was on holiday, he took down the back garden fence and the wooden gate and put up a 6ft high wooden one, without a gate.

As a result, Mrs McCabe has been unable to use the path, the only means of access to the rear of her property other than through the house itself.

Speaking after the case, Mrs McCabe said she had spent months gathering evidence to prove she had a right of way.

“I got statements from all sorts of people – the coalman, the window cleaner, former tenants, and people who worked for the city council before they sold off the properties, and they all confirmed what I was saying. There are seven blocks of houses here and it’s the same arrangement for them all. I got back from holiday in Whitby and opened the kitchen blinds, and there was this six-feet high fence without a gate. It’s been an awful experience and I’ve had sleepless nights, but you have to stand up for what’s right.”

Mrs McCabe, who tried to settle the matter without legal action, said she asked officials at Carlisle City Council to help her prove she had a right of way over Mr Todd’s garden but she was deeply unhappy with their response. The right of ways had been omitted from the deeds of the former RAF properties when they were originally sold off.

In court, Mr Todd argued that he had no obligation to give her a right of way over his garden as it was not specified on the deeds of his property. He said that the fence was erected at a time when Mrs McCabe was not around to ask.

A Carlisle City Council spokeswoman said: “We provided all the property information we had access to and our officers provided as much support as they could to Mrs McCabe.”

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