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Ashley Bowes secures possession order over 200 acre development site

Ashley Bowes has secured an order for possession on behalf of the landowners to enable the expeditious completion of Peter's Village, a 1,000 home strategic residential site on the east bank of the River Medway in Kent.

The site was under construction when, over Christmas 2016, unauthorised occupation took place on a part of land the north of the site. The landowners sought possession of the entire development site. Prior to the hearing however the authorised occupiers moved off.

The Deputy Judge accepted the landowners' submissions that:

  • An order for possession was justified in the circumstances, even though the unauthorised occupiers had moved on because: (i) there was no undertaking from the Defendants not to return, (ii) they were aggressive in rejecting the landowners' right to vacant possession, when challenged by the their agents, (iii) they did briefly return after moving off the site and (iv), they remained local to the large open site.

  • Applying the principles set out in University of Essex v Djemal [1980] 1 WLR 1301, as considered by the Supreme Court in Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs v Meier [2009] UKSC 11, [2009] 1 WLR 2780, the development site comprised a "single piece of property" which was "indivisible" from the part which had been adversely possessed. It was therefore akin to the university campus in Djemal and distinct from the "wholly detached and separated" woodland in Meier.

Following the Supreme Court's decision in Meier, great care will need to be taken to justify why a landowner is entitled for order for possession covering a large site in circumstances where the occupation does not (or did not) cover the whole site. Landowners might in the alternative consider seeking an injunction to restrain anticipated trespass on their remaining land.

Ashley Bowes was instructed by Kate Harris of Hewitsons LLP on behalf of Trenport (Peters Village) Limited and Trenport Investments Limited.