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Private estate neighbours in court over land row

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Aerial view showing the Banks property at 17 (left) and the Storey property at 13 Inglewood Lane, Paget (Image from Google Earth)

A land row between private estate neighbours is playing out in court where the husband of a former premier claimed trees were removed from his property without permission.

Samuel Andrew Banks is seeking a permanent injunction to restrain Simon and Deirdre Storey from “trespassing or creating a nuisance” on his grounds at Inglewood Lane in Paget.

His lawyers claimed in a Supreme Court writ of summons filed last August that in about June 2021, Mr Banks became aware that the Storeys “had come onto his property and removed numerous mature trees and other vegetation, excavated a roadway over a portion of his property, deposited an extensive mulch berm significantly altering the topography, installed ornamental plantings, and carried out other encroaching developments”.

It added: “At no material time did the defendants have the permission of the plaintiff to come on to his land or to remove any trees and/or vegetation nor to encroach on his land by way of the establishment of a roadway or to place any other construction there.”

The writ claimed that the Storeys trespassed on Mr Banks’s property and the removal of trees and vegetation resulted in “consequential destruction of the natural habitats for birds and other wildlife”.

It alleged that the defendants would have known that area of their neighbour’s property was zoned as Coastal and Woodland Reserve Conservation Area in line with the Bermuda Plan.

Mr Banks – the husband of former United Bermuda Party premier Dame Pamela Gordon Banks – is seeking damages and costs as well as an order for demolition of “any construction wrongfully erected or placed” on his property.

The case, in the court’s civil and commercial jurisdiction, is expected to go to trial later.

An interlocutory injunction was granted earlier this year to prevent the Storeys from trespassing on Mr Banks’s land, which is next to theirs.

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden heard arguments this week about whether or not to set aside the temporary order.

The interlocutory injunction was sought after a March 29 notice of intention to develop land, based on an application to the Development Applications Board made retroactively by Mr Storey to replace damaged stairs with pillars and to regrade a patio.

Keith Robinson, acting for the Storeys, claimed on Monday that the temporary order was made with undue urgency and that Mr Banks was made aware that the work did not relate to his land.

Andrew Banks (File photograph)

Jeffrey Elkinson, for Mr Banks, said that in an affidavit his client recounted how Dame Pamela told him in June 2021 “she had discovered that there had been numerous mature trees and other vegetation removed”.

The lawyer told the court that the defendants built an extension to their house on their neighbour’s land.

Mr Robinson insisted: “Mr Elkinson submits that Mr Storey built his house on the Banks’s land, that’s not correct.

“There’s a small portion of the retaining wall that’s on the Banks’s land.”

Mr Elkinson said that a survey by Bermuda Caribbean Engineering Consultants showed a wall, planter and brick patio that was over the boundary and extended 90 sq ft into Mr Banks’s property.

He added: “I don’t know how it can’t be part of their house, it’s attached to it.”

Mr Elkinson told the court: “Mr Banks was living a quiet life in what was once a very quiet, peaceful neighbourhood and all of this unfolded."

The lawyer said that his client became concerned when a notice about Mr Storey’s retroactive application to carry out works was accompanied by a drawing that included a hatched area, which he believed to be part of his own land.

The court heard that Mr Banks said he was advised by a planning inspector that a retroactive application could encompass work yet to be carried out.

Mr Elkinson said that the defendants were asked – via their lawyers – on March 31 for an undertaking by 4pm that day that they would not go on to their neighbour’s property.

He added that the Storeys “couldn’t give that and wouldn’t give that”.

The court heard that the application for a temporary injunction was made on April 1.

Aerial view showing the Banks property at 17 (left) and the Storey property at 13 Inglewood Lane, Paget (Image from Department of Planning maps programme)

Mr Robinson said that a letter that day “told Mr Banks in no uncertain terms that the application for planning permission which had been lodged, which sparked off this application, didn’t relate to Mr Banks’s land”.

He added that the plaintiff’s lawyers were told in the missive that Mr Banks “either intentionally ignored or completely misunderstood the word ‘retroactive’”.

The letter highlighted that the planning application related to works that were completed in 2016 and that they were “well within” the Storeys’ property.

It is understood that a hearing for the interlocutory injunction was held on April 1 but there was no appearance on behalf of the defendants and the order was granted.

Mr Robinson said on Monday that it should be overturned because it was hastily made “with no basis whatsoever to that haste”.

He added that Mr Banks drew conclusions from a topographical survey that works were to be carried out on his land.

Mr Robinson said: “He was fundamentally wrong about the urgency.

“The planning regulations provide that the objection period on any planning application is 14 days notice. That was stated on the red notice.”

He said that Mr Banks gave evidence that the planning notice was “going to go into force” on April 1.

Mr Robinson added: “That was simply wrong.”

He said there were three other paragraphs in Mr Banks’s affidavit that were also incorrect.

Mr Robinson said: “The reason Mr Banks went to court was because he was concerned about this planning application.”

He added: “That’s why he rushed into court and he got that planning application completely wrong.

“He had the benefit of the topographical survey, which was uploaded on to the planning application website but not the more detailed drawings.”

Mr Robinson claimed that what was granted was a “quia timet” injunction – to restrain wrongful acts which are threatened but have not happened.

He added: “I submit the only option open to the court in this scenario is to set aside the ex parte [when not all parties are present] injunction because the court was misled.

“Even if you have some residual anxiety about further trespass, the complaints about trespass are very dated.

“Mr Banks has now erected a fence around the entire boundary.”

Mr Justice Mussenden reserved judgment.