Right to open/close gates
Bradley & Anr v Heslin & Anr  EWHC 3267 (Ch)
The High Court held that the claimants had acquired an equitable easement to open and close a gate for all purposes connected to the reasonable enjoyment of their property, so long as such use did not substantially hinder the defendants' reasonable enjoyment of their own property.
The parties were neighbours, with the claimants at No. 40 having a right of way over the driveway of No. 40A, owned by the defendants. A gate had been put up across the driveway entrance by one of the parties' predecessors. The pillars to which the gate was attached were on different parcels of land, one of which ("the excluded triangle") was within neither neighbour's title.
The claimants wanted the gate closed for security reasons and the defendants wanted it open for means of easier access to the driveway. After a period, the defendants padlocked the gate open. The claimants sought declarations as to their rights as well as an injunction requiring the defendants to remove the padlock.
The Court was asked to determine:
ownership of the pillars to which the gate was fixed; ownership of the gate; whether the defendants were entitled to padlock open the gate; and whether the right to open and close the gate was capable of being an easement. Judgement
The southern gate pillar was found to belong to the claimants, despite being technically within the boundary of 40A. The judge considered it to be an "integral part to the frontage... [forming] part of a coherent design of the front garden of and forecourt to the villa on No. 40." He also concluded that a previous owner had acquired title by conducting substantial works which reformed the boundaries. The judge offered two possible alternatives for the transfer to the claimants of the ownership of the excluded triangle upon which the northern gate pillar was built, suggesting that the previous owner had acquired title through adverse possession against the true owner, or through proprietary estoppel. The judge found that the gates hanging between the posts should also belong to the claimants.
As the judge noted, "ownership of the gates does not determine the real question in controversy between the parties...: when (if ever) may they be closed?" The judge considered that the gates could not have been meant to have been "purely ornamental," since there was evidence of their use...