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Boundary disputes 1 – Find the first conveyance

Following on from my earlier post, this is the first in a series that will set out the approach that the Courts and Land Registry Adjudicator will adopt when resolving boundary disputes.

Although often the first thing the parties look at is the Land Registry and Ordinance Survey plans, they are simply not relevant in boundary disputes.

Lord Hoffman set out exactly needs to be done at the beginning of a boundary dispute in the leading case of Alan Wibberley Building Limited v Insley [1999] 2 All ER 897

The first resort in the event of a boundary dispute is to look at the deeds…These conveyances will each identify the subject matter in a clause known as the parcels clause, which contains the description of the land

This means that you must look for the “first conveyance” for both pieces of land; that is, the deed that separates the land in question from the land surrounding it, and which should set out where the boundaries are.

[pullquote_right]…the plan and parcels clause need to be interpreted in the historical context of the land at the date of the first conveyance…[/pullquote_right]

Once you have found the first conveyances you will need to look carefully at any plan that is attached to it as well as the “parcels clause”; that is, the clause in the document that describes the land that was being sold. It usually starts with something like “all that piece and parcel of land known as and situate at number 1 Old Street…” or words to that effect.

Although they may appear clear, the plan and parcels clause need to be interpreted in the historical context of the land at the date of the first conveyance. For example, in Cook v JD Wetherspoon [2006] EWCA Civ 330 the plan showed measurements showing a width of 40 feet. However, at the time the deed was executed this would have meant that boundary line would have run through the middle of a building that had been subsequently demolished. The Court therefore thought that this could not have been correct, and found that the boundary line was 10 feet away from where the plan said it was.

Once you have found and understood the deeds the next stage is to obtain an expert surveyors’ report. The next post will consider what is required in the surveyors’ report.


Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.

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