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Stephen Bickford-Smith

Stephen Bickford-Smith


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Property Disputes

Stephen is recognised as a leading specialist in property disputes, particularly those relating to easements and party walls. He is the author of three leading textbooks in the area, on Private Rights of WayParty Walls and Rights of Light. The third edition of his book on rights of light was published in December 2014. Legal 500 2014 states that he is "a very talented barrister with strong specialist knowledge of niche areas of property law", whilst Chambers & Partners 2015 describes him as, "a leading authority on the law surrounding rights of light". He appears regularly at first instance and appellate level in cases involving property disputes particularly relating to easements, but also involving party walls, boundary disputes, torts relating to land and landlord and tenant matters. He has been particularly active in the field of rights of light, appearing for claimants who have successfully obtained mandatory injunctions to compel developers to reduce the height and bulk of their schemes in order to protect his clients’ rights to light. 

The landmark case in this area was HXR UK (CHC) Ltd v Heaney, decided in the Chancery Division of the High Court in Leeds in September 2010. Stephen had earlier acted for the successful claimant in Regan v Paul Properties Ltd., Court of Appeal, September 2006 which established the principle that the primary remedy for an infringement of an easement by the construction of a building was a mandatory injunction. He has also appeared in important cases relating to the acquisition of prescriptive rights to light under section 3 of the Prescription Act 1832. Following the decision of the Supreme Court in Lawrence v Fen Tigers Ltd, which overturned the previous law relating to the grant of injunctions in cases involving easements, Stephen represented the Claimants in Scott v Aimiuwu, the first case to consider the impact of the new law on the grant of injunctions to protect rights of light.

Party Wall Matters

In the field of party walls he has represented the successful appellants in two leading cases, Blake v Reeves (Court of Appeal June 2009) on costs, and Zissis v Lukomski, (Court of Appeal March 2006), the first case under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 which required the Court of Appeal to examine the basis and procedure of appeals against party wall awards made by surveyors.  In Longmire v Maldura (County Court at Central London January 2015) Stephen represented the appellant in an unusual case in which the party wall award had been signed by the wrong surveyor, and where the issue concerned whether it was subsequently validated by being signed by the correct surveyor. In Patel v Griffiths (County Court at Central London February 2015) Stephen appearing for the defendants successfully resisted a claim to be entitled to add another floor to a house built against the flank wall of the adjacent property so making access to external pipes on that wall impossible. In Chaturachinda v Fairholme (County Court at Central London September 2015) Stephen appeared for the successful respondents in a preliminary issue on an appeal under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 in which the appellants argued that the works his clients were carrying out, involving reinforced concrete underpinning of the party wall to enable the construction of a basement, amounted to special foundations under section 7(4) of the Ac and were therefore unlawfully placed on their land.

Rights of Way and Boundaries

Stephen appeared for the Defendant in Shaftsbury Properties v Palmiero (County Court at Central London July 2014) in which the issues involved abandonment of rights of way by long disuse and estoppel. In Hue v Kamleh-Chapman (Central London County Court September 2013) he appeared for the successful Claimant in a dispute over the boundary of an area of land with potential development value.

Other Areas

In the more general field of tort liability, in LMS International Ltd v Styrene Packaging and Insulation Ltd (2005) Stephen successfully argued before the Technology and Construction Court that a claim under Rylands v Fletcher as well as for nuisance and negligence could be established against industrial premises sharing a party wall with the claimants where large quantities of inflammable polystyrene were stored and processed. He has also appeared in many significant cases involving diverse aspects of property and landlord and tenant law. In Shrewsbury v Adam (2005) for example he argued in the Court of Appeal that a conveyance included a right of way over land which was to be developed by the vendor.