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Tag Archives: Legal

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

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.