Farmer wins squatter case

A FARMER could be in line for a multimillion pound windfall, The Times reports, after a court awarded him squatter‘s rights to a 13-acre strip of land.

Property evelopers Topplan Estates had plans for 500 Barratt homes on the field, but the Court of Appeal ruling means that the company will now have to buy the site anew, this time from farmer David Townley.

Mr Townley and his family have grazed their dairy herd on the disputed field near Scotforth, Lancashire since 1964.

Initially, they leased the land, but when the owner went bankrupt, they just continued farming there, according to The Times.

Topplan Estates acquired the property in 1992 with intentions of developing the site.

In 1996 Mr Townley began the legal battle that ended in the Court of Appeal this week (w/e Oct 29).

Topplan Estates argued in court that Mr Townley had been “underhand” in his occupation of the land and had “lain low” in his attempt to establish squatter‘s rights.

The argument was not accepted by Lord Justice Parker, who said: “There can be no obligation in law on a squatter to draw the true owner‘s attention to the fact that time is running against them.

“The activities of the squatter on the land must have been open and apparent to anyone who had eyes to see… in this case they were.”

Mr Townley told The Times : “We had actually farmed the land since 1964. When any vehicle went through my hedges and damaged them, the cost and burden of that fell on my shoulders, not Topplan‘s.

“We managed the land in a positive way for all those years. Yes, I felt I was entitled to some sort of recompense for that.”

Mr Townley also said that the outcome could be called “a triumph for the little man against the developers”.

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