Neighbours’ war over 35cm strip of land sparks five-year legal battle which could cost losers up to £80k

They were the ideal neighbours for more than 20 years and even used to look after each other's house keys.

But what started as a small squabble over the putting up of a fence on a foot of land has now left one £80,000 worse off.

Joy Huntley and her son Graham argued that their neighbour's plans to put up the border would stop them from being able to open their parked car's doors.

They asked for a 35cm extension to the boundary on their driveway to allow them room to manoeuvre in and out of their family car, but their next-door neighbour Simon Armes declined.

Enlarge   Battlefront: The new fence will be built between where the two cars are parked, after a judge ended the neighbours' lengthy and costly legal dispute. Mrs Huntley claims the fence will stop her being able to get out of her car in the driveway

Battlefront: The fence will be built between where the two cars are parked, after a judge ended the neighbours' legal dispute. Mrs Huntley (who lives in the house on the left) claims the fence will stop her being able to get out of her car in the driveway

After a five-year legal battle a judge today ruled that the fence can go up and left the Huntley's facing huge legal bills amounting to around £80,000: just under £3,000 a centimetre.

The lengthy legal dispute was sparked in 2005 when Mr Armes applied to put up a fence between the driveway of his semi-detached home and the one next door.

There is no border between the two driveways and up to that point Mr Armes seemed not to mind the 'moments of transient trespass' that occurred when Mrs Huntley got in and out of her car.

However, when Mr Armes raised his intentions, the Huntleys objected strongly and asked for the extra 35cm manoeuvring space.

A judge at Kingston County Court ruled in Mr Armes' favour last year and stated that an assumed boundary on the property from 1935 onwards had given him 'squatters rights' over it.

Unfettered, Mrs Huntley and her son, who is a partner of London law firm Lovells and jointly owns the house, took the case to the Civil Appeal Court.

But Lord Justice Rimer today said the previous court 'came to the correct decision as to the line of the boundary'.

He added that it was 'clear' that the previous owners of Mr Armes' house in Claygate, Surrey, had been in 'exclusive possession' of the disputed small strip of land.

The court also ordered the Huntleys pay Mr Armes' legal fees of which a half was estimated at £30,000. Added with his final costs and their own fees, it is expected to amount to around £80,000.

Mr Armes, 64, a retired banker, says he has become so distressed with the situation that he is now going to put up the fence and sell his £525,000 home.

He said: 'I'm delighted with the result of the case. It has been five years coming.

'The house is on the market and I plan to move to Hampshire with my girlfriend. The sooner I get away from here the better.'

Mr Armes, who lives alone, said he had enjoyed 20 years of good friendship with his neighbours before the dispute began.

'We used to get on very well. We would exchange house keys when we went away,' he said. 'Now we don't speak. We ignore each other.'

He said he has no sympathy with his neighbours and insisted he has every right to build the fence as the drive's boundary was defined when he bought his house, decades ago.

He added: 'They've extended their house but haven't really had the room. I can't see how he can come along and tell me the boundary has been in the wrong place when it's been like that for 70 years. We both bought the houses as they are.'

Both Mrs Huntley and Mr Huntley declined to comment.

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