Neighbours’ 10-year war over parking space ends up costing them £120,000
IT WAS a dispute between neighbours over a thin strip of concrete that could easily have been resolved amicably.
Instead, two sets of stubborn pensioners embarked on a decade-long war over the parking space – which has ended up costing them an eyewatering £120,000 in legal fees.
The bitter row revolves around a 30-inch wide strip of land which Alan Soden and his tenants used to get into their back garden.
But neighbours Raymond and Annette Timmins insisted it was part of their parking space and would position their car to deny access to the gate in the fence.
Only now – ten years after the initial bickering sparked a frenzy of legal threat and counter-threat – has the matter finally been resolved by a land registry tribunal.
And both sides say they have been devastated financially and emotionally by the dispute.
The row flared up soon after Mr and Mrs Timmins moved from Scotland to their bungalow on a small private estate in Maidenhead, Berkshire, complete with its own park- ing space. One day they received a visit from Mr Soden, to say he was upset at how t hey sometimes parked their car too far to the right of their 13ft wide space, so denying him right of way to his gate.
The complaint came even though Mr Soden had never lived in the property himself, having rented it out since buying it in 1987.
The row took a turn for the worse in February 2015 when a tenant living at Mr Soden’s left a note on Mrs Timmins’ car, reading: ‘Please don’t block our gate. I don’t want to scratch your car with my bike.’
Court papers say the already fraught relationship between the households ‘rapidly’ deteriorated after that.
Mr Soden took the case to tribunal – which has now ruled in his favour with the judge saying that he should have access to his garden on the grounds that it had become established practice. But 85-year-old Mr Soden ran up a staggering £76,000 l egal bill – with the Timmins ordered to pay £27,000 towards it, as well as their own £45,000 bill.
‘I knew I was in the right, that is why I would not give up,’ said Mr Soden, who lives with his wife Vivian, 78, in an impressive £1.5 million five-bedroomed home in the nearby village of Cookham.
‘But yes, I admit there is no real sense of victory and the only people who have really won out of all this are the expensive lawyers. The money it has cost us is ridiculous when you look at what we were fighting over.
‘My wife found the stress of it very hard to deal with.’
Meanwhile, retired personal assistant Mrs Timmins, 73, insisted she was right to fight her case, despite the crippling cost
She said: ‘We have used all our life savings and had to draw down from Ray’s pension pot, but it was a matter of principle.
‘I wasn’t going to give in. If only Mr Soden had been more reasonable at the start we could have found some way to resolve it amicably. I can’t believe this has happened. I hate this house now.’
The tribunal judge, Mr William Hansen ruled: ‘I am satisfied that [Mr Soden] and his wife during the period of their ownership and hi s t enants have openly and continuously used the way as claimed and had done so for a least 20 years.’
He also noted that because the Timmins’ bay was over 13ft wide – more than twice the width of the average car – they would still be able to use the space if they parked to one side.
The Timmins’ house, a short walk from their parking space The Sodens’ house. They wanted to use the gate at the bottom of their garden to access the parking area The disputed strip of land, part of the Timmins’ parking space but also immediately behind the Sodens’ back gate
KEEP CLEAR: The Timmins, right, and – above – the couple measuring the gap they must leave, which we have highlighted