Neigh­bours’ 10-year war over park­ing space ends up cost­ing them £120,000

The Mail on Sunday - - Femail - By Mark Wood

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

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