Can true owner stay in possession through his plants?

In Hounslow v Minchinton ((1997) 74 P & CR 221) Hounslow Borough Council owned a strip of land at the foot of M’s garden. M’s predecessors had enclosed it and made it part of their garden since at least 1959 (indeed Hounslow built the fence that effectively excluded themselves from the garden). Hounslow had planted a hedge on the disputed strip to screen the house from nearby land. M and her predecessors had tended the land and treated it as part of their own land for far longer than the limitation period. M’s adverse possession defence failed at first instance. The first instance judge held that the Council had remained in possession through their hedge; it had been planted to act as a screen and it still served that purpose. On appeal, Millett LJ rejected this ‘impossible’ suggestion. M and her predecessors had been in possession and treated the land as their own.

The Council sought to rely, inter alia, on part of Slade LJ’s judgment in Buckinghamshire CC v Moran where he said that a squatter would need to show very strong evidence of adverse possession when the true owner had a clear future intended use for the land and the squatter knew of this. Millett LJ pointed out that these condictions were not satisfied here.

This was a discontinuance case not a dispossession case because Hounslow had built the fence that excluded themselves and others from entering the land.

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