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Restrictive Covenant Amendment Enables Barn Conversion to Proceed

Drive beside garageRestrictive covenants are often found in title deeds and are an effective means of protecting property owners’ rights to privacy and to live free from noise and other nuisance. However, as a tribunal decision illustrated, such covenants can be modified to enable reasonable use of land.

The case concerned a couple whose £2.6 million home was set in a 90-acre rural estate and was accessed by a private driveway. A woman who owned a cottage on the estate which was also accessed via the driveway had obtained planning consent to convert her redundant agricultural barn for residential use.

The couple objected to the development in reliance on a covenant in the woman’s title deeds that restricted her use of her land to that of a single private dwelling house. They argued that the barn conversion would lead to an intensification of traffic movements on the driveway and that the barn’s occupation would generate noise and impinge on the privacy of their secluded home.

In ruling on the dispute, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that the development would not significantly impact on the couple’s enjoyment of their home. Given the barn’s distance from their property, effective screening by hedges and bushes, and the modest projected increase in traffic movements, the covenant did not confer on them practical benefits of substantial advantage. On that basis, the FTT directed that the covenant be modified so as to enable the development to proceed.

The FTT, however, found that the barn conversion was likely to reduce the value of the couple’s home by about 2.5 per cent. The woman was therefore ordered to pay the couple £65,000 in compensation before the modification would take effect.

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