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Does TfL own most of anyone else's gardens?

(13 Posts)
PaddyPai Tue 28-Oct-14 17:33:39

Hello!
We've had our offer accepted on a beautiful Victorian terrace in North London. The only issue is that 2/3rds of the 90 ft long back garden is owned by London Underground Ltd. We've been assured that there's no interference from them and they only come around a couple of times a year to trim the foliage. The garden abuts onto a wall beyond which is an overground Tube line,coming out of the tunnel, prior to arriving in a station 1/2 a mile away. Just hoping to hear experiences of other people who may have lived in similar properties. Also hoping to understand the implications of London Underground owning 70% of the garden. Has anyone successfully applied to buy the garden back from London Underground? Has anyone's experience been different to what we've been told by the sellers and their neighbours?
Thanks very much!

wowfudge Tue 28-Oct-14 19:11:52

What is the basis of the use of the whole garden for the house? I.e. presumably there is a lease or licence agreement with Tfl.

Spickle Wed 29-Oct-14 09:31:19

No experience sorry, but we did once buy some land from the water board with a mains sewer underneath though it was nowhere near 70% of the garden. As long as we didn't build over the sewer and allowed the water board access to it for maintenance etc, all was fine.

In your situation, I would be concerned that TFL may be stockpiling land in case there is a need in the future for more junctions/stations/lines etc and they want the option of being able to do that. I am thinking of Crossrail who are currently building tracks quite near me and lots of nearby houses are being put up for sale because of the worry of having a high speed train rumbling past their windows.

PaddyPai Thu 30-Oct-14 07:20:57

Hello, thank you for your replies. Wowfudge - there is no agreement or lease, just an understanding since at least 1999. In a nutshell, as and when an application is made to obtain title to the rear garden area in question, the Land Registry will serve notice on London Underground Ltd and others. This will give 65 days for them to reply and if there is objection the squatter (us) will not be registered with title. Our lawyer is working on this and trying to get as much info as possible, but I was wondering if anyone on here had to deal with the same thing as well, so we could understand it in layperson's terms.
Spickle - That's helpful to know, thanks again. We're speaking with the area surveyor for London Underground today, so we can ask her about this.
We love the house and after a chaotic (though happy) couple of years in India, would like some peace with no major unforeseen upheavals or need to deal with bureaucracy.

plumquilt Thu 30-Oct-14 07:31:57

We share a boundary with Network Rail, the upside is occasionally receiving quaint letters addressed to 'railway neighbour', the down side is rats.

Spickle Thu 30-Oct-14 07:54:49

When we bought the land from the water board, Land Registry came round to inspect the plot and issued notices to various "interested" bodies including the Water Board and Network Rai, who shared a boundary. They were given 20 days to object IIRC, and lucky for us there were no objections, possibly because the land was really too small to be of much use.

Do you know if TFL own the gardens belonging to the neighbours? It might be helpful to speak to Land Registry to find out - may be a small charge but worth knowing as it could be that TFL have forgotten they own this garden but if they own the whole street for example, there may be plans for future expansion.

Unescorted Thu 30-Oct-14 07:56:18

I work for an organisation that has strips of land - some of them have been annexed by neighbouring land owners. What confuses me about your situation is that the garden is being sold as part of the property but TfL has a charge on the title - to do this there must be some sort of agreement in place (lease, mortgage, or license etc). Otherwise the previous landowner would not have allowed the charge to be put on the title.

Another senario is that the TfL section of the garden shouldn't be sold as part of the property and the value should reflect that. The fact the TfL do maintenance on this section of the property suggests that this is the case and they own the land. But you would not expect a charge on the title for the property you are buying (because it shouldn't include the end of the garden).

A third senario is that the land originally belonged to TfL but they thought it suplus to requirements and therefore sold it, but retained the freehold and access rights to protect any expansion of the network.

The priorities of organisations do change, so it is best to speak to TfL to see if they have any current plans for the land or the likelyhood of the longer term use. It may be that they see it as a liability and therefore would be willing to sell / transfer the freehold to you. I know we have "gardens" that we would like to get rid off because they are not suitable for our organisation's aims - and never will be.

I would also check if there is access to the land - check the title of the properties to the sides until you get to a road. If TfL own the backs of all the gardens then they may decide to sell it off for development to a 3rd party. If there is no access then it means that the only use for it is the extention of the network, which makes it less likely to be used in the near future. Unless of course they have immediate plans - your solicitor should have picked up on this.

PaddyPai Thu 30-Oct-14 15:16:05

Fantastic! Thanks so much for your replies. We spoke with a lovely lady at London Underground, who was kind enough to answer a lot of questions we wouldn't have known to ask before seeing this.
They have owned the Land for 5 decades, they would not sell it off as that would mean it's not under their control and they need access to the tracks.
It looks like they really want to keep it as it is as she said they're obsessed with fire safety and that's why it's their policy to own the land 65 feet on either side of the tracks and "they don't want another King's Cross disaster again".
The station near our home is being refurbished and as far as she knows (after seeing the plans), there is no extension being planned at all. We'll find out tomorrow what that means for station closures.
However, they will not offer guarantees in writing as they do not want to limit their options. Just writing this all out so if anyone else is in a similar situation, they can look up this post. We will probably make an application (if it's not too expensive) to TfL for the title, though it sounds like it's absolutely guaranteed to be rejected. We will have the title to the remaining 1/3rd of the garden.

plumquilt - Eeks rats!! Will ask if there have been problems with those, thank you.
Spickle & Unescorted - London Underground do own all the back gardens along that stretch even the ones after the tunnel starts. They say it's standard policy for them to own it.
I read in a Telegraph piece about the Underground while researching this that LU owns 10% of all green space in London!
Thanks very much again and hope no problems crop up.

sparechange Fri 31-Oct-14 14:37:04

Similar-ish situation, but with network rail rather than TFL/LU, and a much smaller garden.

Years ago, our whole street got an agreement with them that we can have uninterrupted use of the whole garden and make any landscaping alterations, erect sheds, plant plants etc, but they have the right to claim it back with 6 weeks notice.

Our conveyancing didn't pick any of this up (nor did our neighbours when they moved in) but our other neighbour, who has been there for 40 years, told us about it afterwards. In the 40 years that he has been there, they've never as much as visited, let alone made any demands to have the garden back

theowlwhowasafraidofthedark Fri 31-Oct-14 15:48:00

Hi there. Someone I know was in a similar situation with London Underground. Six months after they moved in the land was reclaimed because the embankment had to be reinforced/improved. All the trees on the land were removed and all that separated their garden from a clear view of the train line (was overland part of the underground) was a wire fence. It was awful (particularly as the lu land ran diagonally across their garden). It would have taken years for the trees and plants to regrow to muffle the noise and improve the view. They ended up selling the house at a significant loss in the end.
Of course most likely this will not happen to you but my understanding is that you have no comeback/right of appeal if it does.

Magpiemystery Fri 31-Oct-14 16:04:35

If TFL are the registered owner which it's sounds as though they are I don't think your adverse possession claim will succeed ( not entirely sure that is what your solicitor is suggesting but sounds like it from what you've said)

You need to view and value the house on the basis that you can't use the end 2/3 of the garden and your mortgage valuation will need to be done on that basis.

The fact you can use it at the moment is a bonus but you need to ask yourself whether you really want the house if it was taken away and the worst happened, ie new tracks being built.

PaddyPai Tue 11-Nov-14 16:52:13

Hello! Sorry for the delay in replying, we've been away. @theowlwhowasafraidofthedark - That's just awful! I hope they're having better luck with their new property.
Here's the update -We finally managed to speak directly with the lovely gardens expert at London Underground. She knows the house and said that currently the owners of all the properties along that road should have a license agreement with LU that has to be renewed every year, for a deposit of 500 pounds and a cost of 75 pounds a year to renew. This entitles them to full use of the land barring the construction of any permanent structures. But they're planning to change this before the end of next year, to a fixed 25 year lease at about 125 pounds a year (as of now), which will give us security over the land. The current owners of the house we're buying, their immediate neighbours, the agents, other people at London Underground all seem unaware of this or they would've mentioned it surely and saved us a bit of worry. She says this land has probably been in a similar state for over a 100 years, since this portion of the line was built.
Thank you SO much for taking the time to help, we wouldn't have known exactly what to ask or been pointed in the right direction without all your comments.

InaPuckle Wed 12-Nov-14 22:43:56

I once lived in a flat which had a garden which backed on to the tube in the section which is exposed. No idea if they owned any of the garden but did see someone in the garden in the middle of the night, a couple of blokes with ladders, no notice given, stomping on my plants! I called the police and it turned out they were from London Underground, there to trim overhanging branches from the garden of the derelict property next door.

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