Buckinghamshire County Council v Moran: CA 13 Feb 1989

The parties’ respective properties were separated by a fence or hedge and the true owner had no access to the disputed land. In 1967 the Defendants’ predecessors in title began to maintain the land by mowing the grass and trimming the hedges and using the land for their own purposes. The evidence was that the Plaintiff, the owner of the paper title, had no immediate use for the land but intended in due course to dedicate it for the purposes of a road diversion. Accordingly, the use made of the disputed land by the Defendants did not interfere with the proposed future use to which the true owner intended to devote the land.
Held: The Defendant had established a title by adverse possession, and the fact that the acts of ownership relied upon to establish his claim to adverse possession were not inconsistent with the use to which the true owner intended to put the land in the future was irrelevant. ‘Possession of land would never be ‘adverse’ within the meaning of the Act if it is enjoyed under a lawful title. If, therefore, a person occupies or uses land by licence of the owner with the paper title, and his licence has not been duly determined, he can not be treated as having been in ‘adverse possession’ as against the owner with the paper title.’
Nourse LJ said: ‘The essential difference between prescription and limitation is that in the former case title can be acquired only be possession as of right. That is the antithesis of what is required for limitation, which perhaps can be described as possession as of wrong. It can readily be understood that with prescription the intention of the true owner may be of decisive importance, it being impossible to presume a grant by someone whose intention is shown to have been against it. But with limitation it is the intention of the squatter which is decisive. He must intend to possess the land to the exclusion of all the world, including the true owner, while the intention of the latter is, with one exception, entirely beside the point. In order that title to land may be acquired by limitation, (1) the true owner must either (a) have been dispossessed, or (b) have discontinued his possession, of the land; and (2) the squatter must have been in adverse possession of it for the statutory period before action brought . .’ Hoffmann LJ said that what is required is ‘not an intention to own or even an intention to acquire ownership but an intention to possess.’
Slade LJ referred to Powell v MacFarlane and said: ‘I agree with the judge that ‘what is required for this purpose is not an intention to own or even an intention to acquire ownership but an intention to possess’ – that is to say, an intention for the time being to possess the land to the exclusion of all other persons, including the owner with the paper title. No authorities cited to us establish the contrary proposition.’

Slade LJ, Nourse LJ, Butler-Sloss LJ
[1990] 1 Ch 623, [1989] EWCA Civ 11, [1990] Ch 632, [1989] 2 All ER 255
Limitation Act 1980 15
England and Wales
DisapprovedLeigh v Jack CA 11-Dec-1879
The plaintiff’s predecessor in title (Mr Leigh) had laid out part of his estate as proposed streets to be known as Grundy Street and Napier Place. He conveyed to the defendant certain land described as being ‘bounded by’ Grundy Street and Napier . .
CitedWallis’s Cayton Bay Holiday Camp Ltd v Shell-Mex and BP Ltd CA 10-Jul-1974
A strip of land between a holiday camp and a garage had been conveyed as an intended roadway. It had not been fenced. A plot of land was sold by the previous farmer to the garage. Later the plaintiffs bought the farm, excluding the roadway, and the . .
CitedIn Re Daintrey, Ex Parte Holt QBD 8-May-1893
The court was asked whether a letter could be admitted in evidence and relied upon as an act of bankruptcy. The letter was sent by the debtor to the creditor at a time when there was no dispute, headed ‘without prejudice’. It contained an offer of . .
CitedSouth Shropshire District Council v Amos CA 1986
Lord Justice Parker said that the use of the words ‘without prejudice’ prima facie meant that a letter was intended to be a part of negotiation. A letter which purported to initiate some sort of negotiation (‘an opening shot’) is not necessarily . .
CitedRains v Buxton 1880
Fry J said: ‘The difference between dispossession and the discontinuance of possession might be expressed in this way: the one is where a person comes in and drives out the others from possession, the other case is where the person in possession . .
CitedRush and Tomkins Ltd v Greater London Council HL 3-Nov-1988
The parties had entered into contracts for the construction of dwellings. The contractors sought payment. The council alleged shortcomings in the works. The principal parties had settled the dispute, but a sub-contractor now sought disclosure of the . .
CitedTreloar v Nute CA 1976
The judge in the County Court had rejected a claim to adverse possession by a defendant who together with his father had done a number of acts, some more trivial than others, in and around a disputed gully and adjacent land leading eventually to the . .
CitedPowell v McFarlane ChD 1977
Intention to Establish Adverse Possession of Land
A squatter had occupied the land and defended a claim for possession. The court discussed the conditions necessary to establish an intention to possess land adversely to the paper owner.
Held: Slade J said: ‘It will be convenient to begin by . .

Cited by:
ApprovedRhondda Cynon Taff Borough Council v Watkins CA 12-Feb-2003
Land had been purchased compulsorily, but the respondent unlawfully returned to possession in 1966, and now claimed title by adverse possession. The Council executed a vesting deed poll in 1988. The Council asserted that he could not be in adverse . .
CitedMayor and Burgesses of London Borough of Lambeth v George Bigden and Others CA 1-Dec-2000
A block of flats had been occupied over several years by a succession of squatters. The present occupiers appealed an order for possession, and the authority appealed refusal of possession for other flats. The occupiers asserted possessory title. . .
CitedMayor and Burgesses of London Borough of Hounslow v Anne Minchinton CA 19-Mar-1997
The defendant asserted title to a strip of land by adverse possession. The judge had held that the occupation by the claimant had been insufficient to establish possession.
Held: The use of the land as a garden for compost heaps and similar . .
CitedMayor and Burgesses of London Borough of Hounslow v Anne Minchinton CA 19-Mar-1997
The defendant asserted title to a strip of land by adverse possession. The judge had held that the occupation by the claimant had been insufficient to establish possession.
Held: The use of the land as a garden for compost heaps and similar . .
CitedTopplan Estates Ltd v David Townley CA 27-Oct-2004
The registered proprietor of land appealed a finding that the defendant had established adverse possession of their land. The claimant had occupied it as part of his farm. Originally there had been a grazing tenancy. The tenancy was terminated, and . .
CitedChapman and Another v Godinn Properties Ltd and others CA 27-Jun-2005
Dispute over right of way over land subject to claim for possessory title. ‘But each case must turn on its own facts. In a case of this nature, the court must ask itself what it is that would be expected of somebody in possession of land of this . .
CitedAllen v Matthews CA 13-Mar-2007
The defendants appealed an order refusing title by adverse possession to registered land. They denied that the limitation period had been restarted by their solicitor’s letter acknowledging the title.
Held: The letter must be read as a whole. . .
CitedLong v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council ChD 20-Mar-1996
The parties had agreed for a lease, and the tenant entered possession, but no formal lease was executed. The tenant stopped paying rent in 1977 or 1984. He now claimed rectification of the registers to show him as proprietor. The landlord argued . .
CitedOfulue and Another v Bossert CA 29-Jan-2008
The claimants appealed an order finding that the defendant had acquired their land by adverse possession. They said that the defendant had asserted in defence to possession proceedings that they were tenants, and that this contradicted an intent to . .
CitedRoberts v Swangrove Estates Ltd and Another ChD 14-Mar-2007
The court heard preliminary applications in a case asserting acquisition of land by adverse possession, the land being parts of the foreshore of the Severn Estuary.
Held: A person may acquire title to part of the bed of a tidal river by . .
CitedSze To Chun Keung v Kung Kwok Wai David and Lam Chak Man Estate Limited PC 27-Jun-1997
(Hong Kong) The respondents were registered owners of land occupied by the appellant who claim title by adverse possession after entry in 1955. Subsequently the claim resided with the Crown.
Held: ‘on the facts as pleaded, the land has been . .
CitedWilliams v Hull ChD 19-Nov-2009
The parties had bought a house together, but disputed the shares on which it was held. The appeal was on the basis that a without prejudice letter had been redacte and then wrongly admitted as not in fact without prejudice, an as an unambiguous . .
CitedThe Port of London Authority v Ashmore CA 4-Feb-2010
The Port sought to register ownership of the river bed and tidal foreshore. The defendant’s boat had been moored at a wharf, and he claimed adverse possession. The court was asked whether it was possible to acquire any title by adverse possession to . .
CitedCity of London v Samede and Others QBD 18-Jan-2012
The claimant sought an order for possession of land outside St Paul’s cathedral occupied by the protestor defendants, consisting of ‘a large number of tents, between 150 and 200 at the time of the hearing, many of them used by protestors, either . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Land, Limitation

Leading Case

Updated: 10 December 2021; Ref: scu.259373