A County Durham farmer has been served an anti-harassment injunction and ordered to pay compensation and costs, following a dispute with a neighbour who runs an equestrian business.
Peter Robinson, who has farmed at Lizards Farm, Lanchester, since 1996, was found to have acted “unreasonably and aggressively” by Newcastle County Court in attempting to restrict use of a shared drive.
The dispute was with Peter and Gwendoline Bramwell, who run an indoor riding school at Low Meadows Farm, which they have owned since 2010.
See also: Can I cut off neighbour’s right of way?
In order to gain access to their property, the Bramwells have a right of way over a track that crosses Mr Robinson’s land.
But the farmer accused them of trespassing and making “excessive use” of the right of way.
Vehicles, sometimes heavy lorries, were driven too fast along the track early in the morning and late at night, he claimed.
He was disturbed by “loud music blaring” at antisocial hours and claimed the volume of traffic had greatly increased since the Bramwells’ arrival.
Right of way
But the couple said Mr Robinson was unlawfully interfering with their right of way and took him to court.
Along with a total of 13 speed bumps, he had put up 50 wooden posts on the verges, Judge John Behrens heard.
Mr Robinson had also erected three gates along the track, recently insisting that two of them remain shut “at all times” to prevent his sheep straying.
When Mr Bramwell filled in a pothole on the track in 2013, Mr Robinson said he had no right to do so and removed the filling.
Judge Behrens accepted that the couple’s right of way was “generally limited to the track itself” and did not include the verges.
But Mr Robinson’s behaviour had been “totally unreasonable and unacceptable” and amounted to harassment, he said.
“I accept that he has jumped out at users of the track, behaved aggressively towards them, accused them of speeding when they were not, blocked the track, and deliberately driven his tractor at very low speed down the track so as to in effect block it,” the judge said.
“In my view the allegations of harassment are proved. I will grant an injunction to prevent further harassment.”
Mr Robinson was told to remove all but five of the speed bumps and to ensure that they are not so high that they scrape vehicles’ bottoms.
The judge also insisted that the gates should be kept open “except in an emergency” – though Mr Bramwell was instructed to repair a cattle grid at the end of the track, or install a new one.
One of the Bramwells’ tenants had left “as a result of Mr Robinson’s conduct”, and the judge ordered him to pay the couple £1,300 for lost rent.
Mr Robinson was also told to pay the couple £3,500 damages for the “substantial inconvenience, anxiety and distress” he caused them. He is also facing legal costs.