Victorian chapel at centre of dispute

Posted: 28th July 2014

ChurchDevout Victorian churchgoers who erected a Methodist chapel to serve the faithful of a Norfolk town would no doubt be surprised to know that it would one day be at the centre of a bitter dispute between neighbours.

The crumbling chapel had stood since the mid-19th Century but in more modern times had become the property of a woman who had been granted planning permission to demolish it and replace it with a new home and garage.

However, her plans hit a stumbling block when her next-door neighbour pointed out that a narrow strip of land in front of the chapel was registered in her name and that the woman had no right to cross it either on foot or in a vehicle.

The woman took her case to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) which based its decision in her favour on title documents dating back to1866 when the founders of the chapel bought the land. The measurements paced out at the time and recorded in an indenture had a crucial bearing on the outcome of the case.

In finding that a mistake had made its way onto the land register, the FTT noted that it was unlikely that a chapel would have been built with its main entrance facing onto a strip of land over which worshippers had no rights of access. The root of the problem lay in a 1911 plan of the site which had been 'wrongly coloured'.

Although the neighbour had used part of the strip as a garden in the past, there were no exceptional reasons why the register should not be rectified. Transferring title to the strip to the woman, the FTT concluded, "It is very important to her to enable her to continue the development.”