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Pye in the sky

Down with squatters’ rights? Barbara Hewson considers an important Strasbourg ruling

13 January 2006

The recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in JA Pye (Oxford) Ltd v UK (App. No. 44302/ 02) represents a significant victory for paper title owners of registered land facing claims for adverse possession. But the ramifications of this important judgment need teasing but, both in respect of registered and unregistered land.

J A Pye (Oxford) Ltd (Pye) had acquired a 23-hectare plot from a related company. That company previously permitted some neighbours named Graham to occupy it under a grazing agreement, which expired in 1983. It refused a request to renew the grazing agreement, because it intended to apply for planning permission. Nevertheless the Grahams continued to use the plot for grazing. In 1984, the Grahams asked to renew the agreement, but received no reply. They wrote again in 1985, with no response. They remained in possession.

In 1997, Mr Graham applied for a caution, claiming that he had acquired title by adverse possession....

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