14th November 2022
On Monday 10 October 2022, Mr Justice Adam Johnson handed down a decision in an Appeal in Campden Hill Gate Limited v Duchess of Bedford House RTM Company Limited & Others which concerns parking easements.
Kristy Ainge, Solicitor-Advocate in our Litigation team takes a look at the case
This case concerns a dispute about parking.
Duchess of Bedford House RTM Company Limited & Others (“DBH”) are the owners of long leases of flats within a property known as Duchess of Bedford House in Holland Park. Duchess of Bedford House is a 1930s mansion block, which faces onto a private road known as Sheldrake Place East.
In the middle of Sheldrake Place are two other inter-war mansion blocks known as Campden Hill Gate. Campden Hill Gate Limited (“CHG Limited”), is the head lessee of Campden Hill Gate, and of the other parts of Sheldrake Place including the roads and central gardens.
For some time, car parking in Sheldrake Place, and particularly in Sheldrake Place East, has been a matter of contention between residents of Duchess of Bedford House and those of Campden Hill Gate.
To resolve matters, DBH sought a declaration of their claimed right to park in Sheldrake Place. HHJ Gerald found in favour of them and made a declaration in the following form:
” … each of the Claimants, as underlessees of flats within the mansion block of residential flats known as Duchess of Bedford House, Duchess of Bedford Walk, London W8 7QW (‘Duchess of Bedford House’), has the benefit of a Right to Park on the eastern limb of the private road known as Sheldrake Place onto which Duchess of Bedford House fronts (‘Sheldrake Place East’).”
CHG Limited appealed that decision. The owners of flats in Duchess of Bedford House, sought to uphold it.
It’s worth mentioning, at all material times the freehold title to Duchess of Bedford House, Campden Hill Gate and Sheldrake Place itself was held by the trustees of the Phillimore Kensington Estate (“the Phillimore Estate“).
When the Phillimore Estate granted the headlease back in 1969, they reserved for themselves other easements, quasi easements and other rights belonging to or enjoyed by adjoining premises. This is one of the issues the Judge had to consider… What does this mean?
There were two parts to the decision. The first being, what does the above reservation mean.
Originally, the County Court decided that the above reservation in the headlease meant they had given easements to DBH to park their cars and they cannot withdraw the easement.
The High Court said it means what it says i.e., they have not given easements. They have reserved them for themselves and withdrawn any easements that existed.
The Supreme Court said that you must give wording of clauses the ordinary lateral meaning and the ordinary meaning of the above is they have not given easements.
The second part of the decision is answering the question of whether you can have easements to park in the first place.
Several cases have discussed this previously, and it is well known that you cannot have an easement when you have exclusive possession of the land, because an easement is a right over a land.
The Judge in this case referred to Newman v Jones 1982. This case discussed problems with car parking rights for the first time. This was a similar case concerning a block of 14 flats. Residents were not given express rights to park, but they would leave cars on the car port on a first come first served basis. In this case, the Court concluded that if you are parking in a space available amongst many in a defined area, then that can be an easement which, is binding on third parties and cannot be withdrawn. It does not matter that not everyone can park at once.
On the other hand, if you are parking in a defined space to the exclusion of everyone else, then it cannot be an easement.
The Appeal was allowed in Campden Hill Gate Limited v Duchess of Bedford House RTM Company Limited & Others and it concluded:
If you are parking in whatever space you can in a defined area, it can be an easement. However, if you are parking in the same place all the time it cannot be an easement.
Furthermore, if you park in a defined space but you can be moved around, it could be an easement.
There are quite often disputes between neighbours about parking arrangements, and so if you have any issues you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact us.