Land dispute over a Second World War bunker

Friday 29th July 2022 12:00 pm
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A disused World War II bunker in farmland near Dalby, which has been put up for sale at £50,000 (Johnston Press )

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When a radar bunker was installed on the island’s west coast in the Second World War no one could have predicted a land dispute over it would break out 80 years later.

The battle of the bunker in Dalby has been fought all the way to the high court, with a civil trial held over two days in May.

Now peace has been restored after judgment was handed down by Deemster John Needham.

The bunker was part of the RAF’s chain home radar network which was operational from 1942 to the end of the war.

Its massive detecting pylons have long since gone but the substantial operation bunker and associated buildings remain.

Martin Webb, who has owned the bunker since 2020, had been embroiled in a boundary dispute with the owners of neighbouring Ballacallin Farm, Raymond and Hazel Green.

Mr Webb sought an injunction preventing the Greens from trespassing on his land.

He also sought removal of fencing, gravel, sheep pens and a trailer as well as items stored within a concrete building known as the Guardhouse, which had a lockable door.

The seeds of the dispute were sown by partition, as is so often the case Deemster Needham pointed out in his judgment.

The farm had been sold to the Greens in October 1988 by the late Brian Wood who had retained the freehold of the bunker land.

Mr Wood had gone on to sell the bunker land in 2014, having first registered it with the Land Registry.

The claimant sought an injunction preventing the defendant encroaching on his land, the boundary of which is shown in the plan filed with the Land Registry.

Mr Webb also sought damages, interest and costs.

But the Greens argued that the extent of the land registered as the bunker land far exceeded that retained by Mr Wood when he sold the farm to them in 1988.

In a counter-claim they called for the Land Registry filed title plan to be rectified.

Two parcels of land were specifically at issue – one extending from the south-eastern side of the bunker to the established sod hedge field boundary (parcel 1) and the other on the north-western side (parcel 2).

The Greens’ counter-claim sought the removal from the title plan of parcels 1 and 2 which they said were owned by them and had not been retained by Mr Wood when he sold the farm to them in 1988.

They also sought an injunction preventing Mr Webb from entering those parcels of land and requiring him to restore a shed, that had been turned into a first aid post, back to the state it was in before.

The Greens had farmed a total of 425 acres of land in the area from February 1989 until their retirement in November 2019.

Following a falling out between Mr Wood and the Greens, the former was adamant that he would not sell the bunker to them when he decided in 2012 to put it on the market.

Retired farmer Mr Green was ‘not what one could call a wholly reliable witness’, Deemster Needham concluded.

But having weighed up all the evidence, he said he had come to the conclusion that on the balance of probabilities parcel 2 was not included in the land retained by Mr Wood in 1988.

He said it was much more difficult to determine whether parcel 1 had been conveyed or retained.

But he found the defendants had not proved on the balance of probabilities their ownership of parcel 1.

He ordered the Land Registry to rectify the title plan to exclude parcel 2.

But he dismissed the defendants’ counterclaim in respect of their claimed ownership or rights over any other part of the title.

Turning to the issue of costs, Deemster Needham said his preliminary view was that this was a case that ‘has very much been, using footballing parlance, a score-draw such that each party should bear their own costs’.

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