Outer House case concerning the creation of a servitude right of access by prescriptive possession. Mr and Mrs Gray owned 40 Montgomerie Drive, Fairlie and a lane running to it from Montgomerie Drive. Mr and Mrs Jones owned 38 Montgomerie Drive and sought declarator that a servitude right of pedestrian and vehicular access had been created in favour of no 38 over part of the lane leading to the rear of their property and garage.
The Joneses also said that the Grays had erected a lockable post and fence in front of their garage so as to obstruct access to it from the lane and sought a decree ordaining removal of the obstructions and interdict preventing the Grays from interfering with the disputed area.
Section 3(2) of the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 provides:
“If a positive servitude over land has been possessed for a continuous period of twenty years openly, peaceably and without judicial interruption, then, as from the expiration of that period, the existence of the servitude as so possessed shall be exempt from challenge.”
In support of their action, the Joneses claimed that their predecessors in title had taken access over the disputed area including daily access to the garage with their car and with their sailing dingy from time to time between April 1979 and June 2007. The access had been free and uninterrupted and it was consistent with exercise as a matter of right. The Joneses had taken access over the disputed area from June 2007 for parking their car in the garage, unloading their car and getting from the lane to the garage doors.
The Grays argued that the Joneses had not adequately specified the continuity, volume and frequency of the possession in their pleadings nor had they demonstrated that possession had been continuous for the prescriptive period or that it was open and ‘as of right’. They contended that the action should be dismissed on the basis the Joneses arguments were irrelevant and/or that they did not give fair notice of important matters to the Grays.
Lord Doherty was not satisfied that the case should be dismissed. Applying the test set out in Jamieson v Jamieson (1952), it was not a case which would necessarily fail even if all of the Joneses arguments were proved. Several of the issues between the parties involved questions of fact and degree which would be capable of determination after a proof (e.g. whether possession was continuous). Lord Doherty was also not persuaded that there was a lack of fair notice on important matters. The crux of the Grays’ complaint was that the use of the word “included” suggested that the Joneses would be able to lead evidence of other unspecified modes of access of which no notice had been given. Lord Doherty considered that use of the word “included” did not reserve them a free hand to do so and if it were to happen the Grays would be entitled to object to such evidence being led.
A proof before answer was allowed.