A millionaire property developer and his neighbours are facing off in court after blowing £70,000 in a four-year fight over whether a garden fence should be moved back six inches.
The neighbours' war erupted after company boss Patrick Doyle moved in next to Janusz and Elzbieta Wajda's £1.7m house in Mount Avenue, Ealing, in 2014 and built himself a four-bedroom detached house on a £1m patch of building land.
The couple say they and Mr Doyle were initially friendly until the fence between their houses was taken out by the construction boss, 62, whilst he was having a garage built in 2016.
They say they agreed to let their neighbour temporarily move the fence, but that it was down to him to pay for it to be replaced afterwards.
However, when the fence remained absent 10 months later, Mr Wajda and his wife – who the court heard didn't like looking at the brick wall of their neighbour's garage – had it put back themselves.
But an expensive falling-out blew up after Mr Doyle claimed Mr and Mrs Wajda had slotted the fence back in the wrong place when they reinstated it, and are now "trespassing" six inches onto his land.
Mr Doyle, who has spent £60,000 trying to get the fence shifted, is now suing his neighbours at Central London County Court, asking a judge to order them to take out the fence – and "erect a fence along the correct boundary line as originally agreed".
Mr Wajda, 61, and Mrs Wajda, 59, insist the fence was put back at exactly the right point and have themselves already run up £10,000 in related costs.
They are countersuing for damages for the cost of putting the wood and panel fence back and asking for a court ruling that the fence is now located on the correct boundary.
Judge Nicholas Parfitt heard that Mr Doyle, who was described in court by his neighbour as a "professional developer," moved in next to Mr and Mrs Wajda in 2014.
He had paid £965,000 for the 0.147 acre building plot, which was the site of a dilapidated former doctor's surgery, known locally as "The Quack's House".
Mr Wajda said Mr Doyle carried out "significant building works" on the land.
"He was demolishing all the buildings and had significant groundworks with the creation of a basement and then built his house," he told the court.
Mr Doyle, who is a boss of construction company Cranshield Ltd, ended up with a lavish multimillion-pound detached home and garden, secluded off the main road behind high gates.
For the Wajdas, Nick Grant told the court that, after the work was completed, the fence was not immediately replaced, despite them sending repeated emails over 10 months asking for it to be done.
In the end, they comissioned their own workers to put it back and Mr Wajda told the judge: "My wife asked me to put it up..she didn't like the brick work."
For Mr Doyle, Ben Maltz said: "Mr Doyle asserts that the Wajdas have positioned the fence so as to encroach on the land, such that it sits atop a ground level drainage pipe serving his property."
But Mr Grant claimed the drainage pipe itself was put in inches over on their side of the boundary, rather than the fence being in the wrong place.
The Wajdas insist the fence has been "reinstated to its original position, is not a trespass and that the pipe is a trespass," he said.
The key issues for the judge now to decide are whether the Wajdas are trespassing onto Mr Doyle's property and whether the fence has been put back in the right place – "its pre-works position".
The Wajdas have owned their home since 2002 and say that in 2009 they obtained a detailed survey of the property which made clear where the boundary lies.
Mr Wajda told the judge he only agreed to temporarily shifting their boundary fence "if Mr Doyle had also agreed to mark the location of the existing fence".
"He is a very professional developer, he should have done that," he told the court.
"He could have got a surveyor, I did not want to fall out with him."
But Mr Doyle's barrister asked: "In the course of you erecting this fence, my client said: 'that's not where the fence should be going – stop or I will have to take legal action'.
"But you just carried on and did it. Was that conducive to settling the dispute?"
Mr Wajda replied: "If Mr Doyle wanted to settle the matter, he could have instructed a surveyor."
Mr Wajda told the judge that he has already moved the fence once at Mr Doyle's insistence, but that did not end the disagreement.
After Mr Doyle challenged him on the position of the new fence, he said he "went back to the surveyors and asked them to remeasure based on the previous 2009 survey because that was the only reference I had".
"He came back and said 'you're 50 millimetres out – so I moved the fence 50 millimetres because I didn't want an argument'," he said.
The judge has now reserved his decision in the case, to be given at a later date.
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