Mills and Another v Silver and others: CA 6 Jul 1990

A farm’s only vehicular access was over land which was only useable occasionally when dry. The defendants laid a stone track to facilitate constant access. At first instance it was held that the earlier use had been too intermittent to allow a prescriptive right, and the use had been by consent.
Held: The use was established by the doctrine of lost modern grant. Tolerance of the use was not sufficient to defeat the acquisition of the right. The earlier use had been by right, and a prescriptive right was acquired.
Dillon LJ said: ‘It would be easy to say . . that there is an established principle of law that no prescriptive right can be acquired if the user by the dominant owner of the servient tenement in the particular manner for the appropriate number of years has been tolerated without objection by the servient owner. But there cannot be any such principle of law because it is, with rights of way, fundamentally inconsistent with the whole notion of acquisition of rights by prescription. It is difficult to see how, if there is such a principle, there could ever be a prescriptive right of way.’ and
‘It is to be noted that a prescriptive right arises where there has been user as of right in which the servient owner has, with the requisite degree of knowledge, which is not in issue in the present case, acquiesced. Therefore mere acquiescence in or tolerance of the user by the servient owner cannot prevent the user being as of right for purposes of prescription. Equally, where Lord Lindley says that the enjoyment must be inconsistent with any other reasonable inference than that it has been as of right in the sense he has explained, he cannot be regarding user with the acquiescence or tolerance of the servient owner as an alternative reasonable inference which would preclude enjoyment as of right from being established. A priori, user in which the servient owner has acquiesced or which he has tolerated is not inconsistent with the concept of user as of right. To put it another way, user is not ‘precario’ for the purposes of prescription just because until 20 years have run, the servient owner could stop it at any time by issuing his writ and asking for an injunction.’
Parker LJ said: ‘The true approach is to determine the character of the acts of user or enjoyment relied on. If they are sufficient to amount to an assertion of a continuous right, continue for the requisite period, are actually or presumptively known to the owner of the servient tenement and such owner does nothing that is sufficient . . I add only this, that any statement that the enjoyment must be against the will of the servient owner cannot mean more than ‘without objection by the servient owner’. If it did, a claimant would have to prove that the right was contested and thereby defeat his own claim.’

Dillon LJ, Parker LJ, Stocker LJ
[1991] Ch 271, [1991] 2 WLR 324, [1991] 1 All ER 449, [1990] EWCA Civ 12
England and Wales
AppliedSturges v Bridgman CA 1879
The character of the neighbourhood in which the plaintiff lives should, for the law of nuisance, include established features: ‘whether anything is a nuisance or not is a question to be determined, not merely by an abstract consideration of the . .
AppliedDavies v Du Paver CA 1953
The court accepted that local farmers could identify which sheep belonged to what person on the owner’s land but the owner of the land was not able to do so and, not sharing that common knowledge, did not have knowledge of the user, and court denied . .
ConsidereredGardner v Hodgson’s Kingston Brewery Co HL 1903
The party claiming a right of way through the yard of a neighbouring inn, and her predecessors in title, had for well over 40 years used the inn yard (the only means of access with carts and horses to her premises) and had paid the annual sum of 15 . .
DistinguishedBeckett (Alfred F) v Lyons 1967
A claim was made that the inhabitants of the County Palatine of Durham had the right to take coal from the seashore.
Held: Dedication of a public right must be to the public at large or a sufficiently large section of the public at large and . .
DistinguishedPatel v Smith (WH) (Eziot) 1987
. .

Cited by:
CitedRegina v City of Sunderland ex parte Beresford HL 13-Nov-2003
Land had been used as a park for many years. The council land owner refused to register it as a common, saying that by maintaining the park it had indicated that the use was by consent and licence, and that prescription did not apply.
Held: . .
CitedOxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council, Catherine Mary Robinson ChD 22-Jan-2004
Land had been registered in part as a common. The council appealed.
Held: The rights pre-existing the Act had not been lost. The presumption against retrospectively disapplying vested rights applied, and the application had properly been made. . .
CitedOdey and Others v Barber ChD 29-Nov-2006
The claimants sought a declaration that they had two rights of way over a neighbour’s land. One was claimed by continuous use for twenty years, and the second was said to have been implied under the 1925 Act. No express grant was suggested. . .
CitedPolo Woods Foundation v Shelton-Agar and Another ChD 17-Jun-2009
The court considered whether the claimant had established a profit a prendre against the defendant neighbour’s land in the form of a right of pasturage, acquired either by lost modern grant or by prescription.
Held: The appeal succeeded, but . .
CitedLondon Tara Hotel Ltd v Kensington Close Hotel Ltd ChD 1-Nov-2010
The defendant asserted that it had acquired the right to use a private access road over the claimant’s land. There had been a licence granted under which an earlier owner had been said to have used the land. The defendant claimed under the 1832 Act . .
CitedLawrence and Another v Fen Tigers Ltd and Others QBD 4-Mar-2011
The claimants had complained that motor-cycle and other racing activities on neighbouring lands were a noise nuisance, but the court also considered that agents of the defendants had sought to intimidate the claimants into not pursuing their action. . .
CitedBarkas, Regina (on The Application of ) v North Yorkshire County Council and Another SC 6-Mar-2014
The Court was asked as to the registration of a playing field as a ‘town or village green’. Local residents asserted that their use of the land, having been ‘as of right’ required the registration. They now appealed against rejection of that . .
CitedNewhaven Port and Properties Ltd, Regina (on The Application of) v East Sussex County Council and Another SC 25-Feb-2015
The court was asked: ‘whether East Sussex County Council . . was wrong in law to decide to register an area . . known as West Beach at Newhaven . . as a village green pursuant to the provisions of the Commons Act 2006. The points of principle raised . .
CitedBramwell and Others v Robinson ChD 21-Oct-2016
Interference with right of way
Neighbour dispute as to right of way.
Held: The defendant had failed to establish the ‘swing space’ he asserted, but otherwise the claimant had in several ways behaved unreasonably and interfered with the use of the right and harrassed the . .
CitedBowen and Others v Isle of Wight Council ChD 3-Dec-2021
What makes a road a Road?
The Court was asked whether a Road was a ‘road’ for the purposes of the 1984 Act’
Held: It has often been said that the public access mentioned in the definition of ‘road’ must be both actual access and legal or lawful access. However, simple . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Land, Limitation

Leading Case

Updated: 10 December 2021; Ref: scu.187763