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Category Archives: Boundary Disputes

A homeowner has used historic aerial photography to provide crucial evidence to support a planning application and overturn the local council’s plan to place a tree preservation order on trees within his garden. Bluesky supplied the historic aerial photography, complete with certificates of authentification, from their OldAerialPhotos archive providing factual and unbiased evidence to support the homeowner’s claim that the trees in his garden were in fact self seeded and did not historically form part of neighbouring woodland.

“We acquired the property several years ago when it was uninhabitable and virtually derelict,” commented homeowner Stuart Whelan, “and then since when we have spent a considerable amount of time and money bringing it back to it’s former glory – a fact that has been appreciated by our neighbours as it has a prominent position within the village.”

Mr Whelan continued, “When we submitted the planning application for a garage within our garden to Rushcliffe Borough Council we assumed it was just a formality. However when this was refused, on the grounds that the site was considered woodland, we were very concerned. If we allowed the classification to stand it would seriously impede on our ability to use the land as garden and continue with our regeneration of the site.”

The Bluesky images formed part of a seventy three page document presented by Mr Whelan to the Council outlining his objections to the ‘woodland’ Tree Preservation Order. The images from 1978, 1991, 1999 and 2007 clearly show both the property and garden falling into a state of disrepair with adjacent woodland gradually ‘taking over’ the garden.

“The Council simply couldn’t argue with the photographic evidence placed before them,” concluded Mr Whelan. “The images were therefore instrumental in achieving an agreement with the Council and the order was changed from a blanket ban to a group order naming specific trees. This provides protection for the trees we love yet allows us to use our garden as a garden.”

The imagery supplied by Bluesky forms part of historically important archive that includes some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, military photography from World War II and many national archives. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, the images are an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.


Aerial photography dating back to the 1940s has provided crucial evidence in a long running battle for public access to a historic site on Dartmoor, England. A Planning Inquiry has ruled in favour of the landowner who bought the land around Vixen Tor in 2003, closing off access to the general public. The order to open two paths across the land was made by Devon County Council with support from The Ramblers (formerly the Ramblers Association) and the British Mountaineering Council. Following the recent ruling by the Planning Inspectorate this order has now been rescinded.

Bluesky supplied the historic aerial photography complete with certificates of authentification from their OldAerialPhotos archive providing factual and unbiased evidence for further investigation by Air Photo Services, a company that offers specialist interpretation of aerial imagery, consultancy and expert witness services. Director Chris Cox commented, “Acting as an Expert Witness and working on behalf of my client, I was able to establish, using the historic images, that a footpath was not visible in the alleged place. I conducted comparative analysis on other visible paths in the area from the 1940s to the present day to support this claim.”

She continued, “The fact that Bluesky were able to supply a full range of appropriately dated and authenticated images in a timely fashion meant that I could undertake detailed analysis, preparing a comprehensive report within the short timescales imposed by the Inquiry.”

Planning Inspector Mark Yates ruled that there was not enough evidence to show continuous use of the paths during the twenty years prior to their closure. He said, “I accept that people have walked to Vixen Tor and used routes through the enclosure. However, I am not satisfied that the evidence of public use presented to the inquiry is sufficient to demonstrate the dedication of this route in common law.”

This is a second inquiry that has upheld the rights of farmer Mrs Mary Alford. A previous Inquiry, seen as one of the most important test cases for the Right to Roam legislation, ruled that the public did not have an automatic right of way across the land.

The imagery supplied by Bluesky forms part of historically important UK archive that includes some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, military photography from World War II and many national archives. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, the images are an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.

Visitors to can search by simply entering a postcode, address or grid reference. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage, of every image that matches the search criteria are displayed and the visitor can choose to purchase a hard copy print, digital image file or photopack which includes historical and current day photos as well as certificates of authentification.

The Old Aerial Photos Legal Pack is proving to be a real winner among the legal profession, particularly in relation to boundary disputes and adverse possession. The pack contains all the photographic evidence you need to prove your boundary or land ownership issue.  The OAP pack contains a scanned and authenticated historical aerial photo of your choice, and print of an up to date photo as well as the historical photo. The authentication means that the photograph can be used of legal purposes in court. Additional historical aerial photos can be added for an extra fee.  These packs can be purchased on the OAP website or by calling 01530 518528.

If you require advice as to how an old aerial photo can help in legal cases, or if you require interpretation or even an expert witness, please contact our experts on 01530 518528.  The Old Aerial Photos service is run by Bluesky International Limited.

We have recently been working on a boundary dispute case involving an illegal extension, and much of the case had been built on the ‘evidence’ of Google Earth aerial photos, using the very cool time slider (have a look, it is great!).  But what we thought was an “open and shut case” actually ended up being far more complicated, because of the Google Earth data.  The dispute was in an area in London where there are several date of aerial photography available.  The 2003 photo showed no extension, but the 2006 photo showed it – sounds simple enough until you view the 1999 and 2002 photo, both of which clearly show the extension. One might assume it was demolished and rebuilt, but the answer is far simpler.  the 2003 photo was in fact taken in 2001.  To compound the problem it was claimed the extension was built in 2001, so why was it on the 1999 photo?  It transpires that the 1999 photo is the same aerial photo as the 2002 photo, which is dated correctly.  Confused…we were!

If you go to Google Earth and find the Gherkin in Central London then open the time slider you can watch the tower going through various stages of construction, in the wrong order!  Google Earth and  Bing Maps are fantastic resources and we have all lost hours just cruising around the globe looking for past holiday destinations and where our grandparents lives. But be aware that the dates and other information offered by Google (and Bing) are not always to be relied on.  The detail within the photos can also have been altered in the process of putting the data together; Photoshop is an amazing tool…so be warned!  Use Google Earth (and Google Maps for what they are intended, which is not legal disputes!

Our advice is to always use aerial photos from a source that can verify the photo for you. is the obvious place as we have the most on offer!

Here is some useful advice on boundary disputes from Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, taken from their free guide booklet.  Certainly worth reading if you have a boundary dispute. Full link to the original document is at the bottom of this blog.
What is a boundary?

Land Registry records the general position of the boundaries in each registered title using an adapted large scale Ordnance Survey plan.This title plan may not accurately represent the true ground positions of the boundaries. The Land Registration Act 2002 allows you under certain conditions to determine and record the exact line of your boundaries on a registered title, to avoid any future boundary dispute. But what happens, for instance, if a neighbour complains a new wall is overlapping their land, or their new extension takes up part of a pathway between your houses? A minor disagreement can quickly become a full-scale dispute involving solicitors’ letters and threats of court action. Even more damaging are the costs involved. Ultimately, the cost of protecting your right to land in court could be 50 or 100 times as much, so it pays to think hard before rushing into legal action.

What should you do?

Get a specialist to look at all aspects of the problem and advise on whether or not you have a case. Chartered surveyors specialising in boundaries are professional advisors with relevant knowledge of both property issues and the law. They will look at the problem, prepare any technical data that may help solve the dispute at an early stage and, if necessary, provide a court with the appropriate advice and information needed to make a judgement. They will also advise on alternative dispute resolution procedures, which would avoid the need to go to court.

Accurately identifying the boundary

Accurately identifying the boundary between two properties often requires specialist knowledge. The red line drawn around a property on the Land Registry plan only shows the general boundary. It does not identify whether the boundary runs along the centre of a hedge or along one side of it. Ordnance Survey maps are equally unreliable because, as part of the mapping process, they do not mark exact property boundaries. So a line surrounding the property is not necessarily the property boundary. A chartered land surveyor will not only survey the land, check deeds and the plans attached to them, but will refer to historical documents and aerial photographs.

A boundary can change over time for many reasons: a diverted water course, or a wooden fence that moves slightly every time it is replaced. The reason for such changes is rarely recorded and can lead to disputes, especially if the owner has lost the right to move the boundary line back to its original position.

Dealing with disputes

The key to resolving a dispute speedily and successfully is to seek expert advice as soon as possible. In the first instance, this advice can be from either a chartered land surveyor or a chartered surveyor specialising in boundary disputes. Before you ask an expert to work on your behalf, check the following:

• Do they specialise in boundary work?

• Do they have experience of mapping and land surveys?

• Are they skilled at interpreting aerial photographs?

• Are they familiar with the latest civil procedure rules and experienced in preparing reports for court?

• Do they have experience as an expert witness in court and, if so, how many court appearances have they made in the last year?

If you can settle the matter before going to court, or if the court defines a boundary line and writes an order, the chartered land surveyor will mark out your boundary line. They may supervise any fencing or building contractors to make sure there are no further arguments. Ensure they prepare a new plan, to the required specification, showing the agreed boundary line for submission to the Land Registry as a determined boundary

Call the RICS Boundary disputes helpline

0870 333 1600

The helpline will put you in touch with an experienced local RICS member who will provide you with up to 30 minutes free advice.

RICS Neighbour Dispute Service

Call +44 (0)20 7334 3806

Fax +44 (0)20 7334 3802


The RICS Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) provides access to a specialist panel of expert Chartered Surveyors with experience of resolving neighbourly boundary disputes. This can involve expert determination of the boundary and mediation of a dispute. Therefore, you do have an alternative to formal litigation if any doubt or uncertainly exists between parties on the correct boundary line.

The full booklet can be found on the RICS Website

Cutting down hedges, planting trees and moving fences often give rise to boundary disputes. They are the most frequent cause of bad feelings between neighbours although most of the time they can be resolved quickly and cheaply.  Here are three steps taken from, who can provide some of the documents needed when involved in a boundary dispute.  Remember that have the largest collection of aerial photos available for helping with boundary dispute resolution.

Step 1 Title Deeds: An eminent Judge of the House of Lords has recently stated that an examination of the title deeds is the first port of call. You cannot even begin to resolve your dispute without examining all available registered title deeds for each property.

Step 2 Presumptions:  There are certain legal presumptions that apply in the absence of contrary agreement. These must be considered. Any contrary agreement would normally be contained in the title deeds, so the two must be considered together.

Step 3 Aerial Photo:  Aerial photographs of the property should be obtained, if possible, as sometimes it is necessary to examine the position of physical features on the ground and compare them to descriptions in the deeds. It is often preferable to have more than one photo to either back each other up, or show that a boundary has moved.

If necessary:  If the three steps above do not help you settle your dispute you may have to instruct a surveyor, or apply to the court. You will still need several documents however, including the Property Register, Title Plan, all Registered Old Style Deeds, the Lease, as well maps, aerial photos and a list of legal presumptions.

It can be a very upsetting process, and if you need help – we are here.

This is quite an interesting one.  A customer wanted to prove his house was bigger in the 1950s.  He was attempting to rebuild on the footprint of the old building, but there was little evidence of the original building on the ground.  The Local Authority would therefore not believe that the building used to be larger.  He came to us to ask if we could prove beyond doubt that his house was indeed bigger in the 1950s.  So using modern photos from 2009 and two photos, one from 1951 and one from 1955 we could easily see that the house was in the region of 50% bigger in the mid 50s.   In addition we sourced an old Ordnance Survey map from 1930s to back up the observations. We presented him with the results in a clear and concise report.  He was of course, over the moon.

This goes to show that aerial photos, modern and old can be used for more than just boundary disputes.

Several photos from the Old Aerial Photos archive have recently been used to prove a case of illegal tree removal, or not, as it was in this case.

A  local council in England accused a resident of removing saplings which were protected by TPO’s.  We viewed modern aerial photos in stereo to assess the height of all of the trees in the area in question.  These were then compared to historical photos and the difference in the number and height of trees was assessed.  We showed that there was just one tree that had been removed, which turned out to be just outside the area of interest.

The evidence was so compelling that the local council dropped the case immediately.  This demonstrates that Old Aerial Photos can be used for other purposes than just boundary disputes and general interest!  We are working on several interesting cases at the moment, and perhaps we will share more success stories in the near future.

Aerial survey specialist Bluesky has launched a new web service designed to help resolve boundary, rights of way, and other land related disputes. Visitors to can now identify and acquire photographic evidence from the past to support their claim and in addition to the historical aerial photomaps a range professional services are also available including Letters of Authenticity, Statutory Declaration and even appearance in court by a professional photographic interpreter. With prices starting from as little as £20 the Old Aerial Photos Legal Service can save time and money, even helping to resolve disputes before they escalate.

“As the saying goes a ‘picture paints a thousand words’ and this is never truer than fully authenticated photograph,” commented James Eddy, Operations Director of Bluesky. “Offering irrefutable evidence an Old Aerial Photo is easily worth a thousand words and can potentially save thousands of pounds in legal fees and court appearances.”

Visitors to can search through the millions of aerial images dating back as far as the 1917 by simply entering a postcode, address or grid reference. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage, of every image that matches the search criteria are displayed and the visitor can choose to purchase either a hard copy print or digital image file.

The additional services offered by Bluesky as part of the Old Aerial Photos Legal Service include professional archive searches, where trained archivists will search for the most suitable image for you, letters of authenticity, including the exact date and time the photograph was captured and statutory declaration that the photograph is as described and fit for purpose. The Old Aerial Photographs Services Team can also provide a written interpretation of the image, an Affidavit (written evidence for use in court) or even personal courts appearances to provide expert opinion.

Images that are available to purchase from include some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, military photography from World War II and many national archives, including oblique aerial photographs are also available. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, is an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.

I have recently finished a case in which a local authority were taking a local resident to court over an alleged land use change.  I thought I would share a few of the details.

The council were claiming that the four acres of land around the residents house had changed from agricultural purposes to  storage of certain materials, over a 10 year period.  We were able to source several aerial photographs of the area, two of them exactly ten years apart.  All of them were clear enough to make out the land use.  Without going into too many details we were able to prove that the land had indeed been used for the storage of the materials for the at least the preceding 10 years, and longer.  Admittedly the aerial photos also showed the volume of materials stored has increased, and the agriculture had decreased.

We were able to offer the resident a full service, including the aerial photos as prints with letters of authenticity, and full written report on the land use, including a land use map.  We also offered statutory declarations and if necessary a witness in court.  To date we have never had to supply a court witness, as the photos and the report tend speak for themselves, such is the weight of this evidence.

If you want to know more please email or visit