Topplan 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 the land sold, but he did not vacate the land. The new owner granted a further annual licence to the claimant’s father, but not after his death in 1982. The claimant continued his occupation, taking off grass crops and grazing the land. The land was sold again, but the purchaser inspected the land in December when the cows had been taken off the land. A part of the land had been used whilst a road was widened, and the claimant had not objected. The appellant said this use was not continuous and apparent.
Held: There was no obligation on a claimant to notify the paper owner of his presence: ‘there can be no obligation in law on a squatter to draw the true owner’s attention to the fact that time is running against him.’ ‘. . . the epithet ‘adverse’ in the expression ‘adverse possession’ in paragraph 8 of Part I of Schedule 1 to the Limitation Act 1980 refers not to the quality of the possession but to the capacity of the party claiming possessory title (‘the squatter’) as being a person ‘in whose favour the period of limitation can run’. . . In particular, it does not connote any element of aggression, hostility or subterfuge. ‘ and ‘the word ‘possession’ in the expression ‘adverse possession’ means no more than ‘ordinary possession of the land’ (per Lord Browne-Wilkinson at para 36: see para 39 above). However, in order to establish possession in this context, the squatter must prove (a) sufficient objective acts to constitute physical possession (‘factual possession’) coupled with (b) an intention to possess (animus possidendi). ‘Occupation of the land alone is not enough, nor is an intention to occupy which is not put into effect by action.’ and ‘an intention to possess must be distinguished from an intention to own: it is only the former which is relevant in the context of adverse possession’ and ‘a squatter will establish factual possession if he can show that he used the land in the way one would expect him to use it if he were the true owner and in such a way that the owner is excluded ‘ and ‘Just as the issue as to factual possession depends crucially on the facts of the particular case, so also, in my judgment, must the issue as to the existence of the requisite intention to possess. In particular, whether the existence of factual possession is sufficient in itself to establish the existence of the requisite intention to possess, or whether some further evidence of intention is required, must depend on the particular facts of the case. ‘

Mr Justice Hooper Lord Justice Pill Lord Justice Parker
[2004] EWCA Civ 1369, Times 15-Nov-2004
England and Wales
CitedPowell v McFarlane ChD 1977
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 . .
CitedJ A Pye (Oxford) Ltd and Others v Graham and Another HL 4-Jul-2002
The claimants sought ownership by adverse possession of land. Once the paper owner had been found, they indicated a readiness to purchase their interest. The court had found that this letter contradicted an animus possidendi. The claimant had . .
HeresyLeigh 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 . .
CitedLondon Borough of Lambeth v Blackburn CA 14-Jun-2001
The appellant had broken into an empty council owned flat, and subsequently occupied it. After twelve years the authority obtained a court order for possession. The court had held that the appellant had not had a sufficient animus possidendi since . .
CitedBuckinghamshire 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 . .
CitedPurbrick v Hackney London Borough Council ChD 26-Jun-2003
The property fell into disrepair. The claimant began to use it for storage, carrying out some refurbishment. He now claimed to own the property by adverse possession.
Held: Littledale was not to be followed unless the facts were strictly on . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Registered Land, Limitation

Updated: 05 December 2021; Ref: scu.219126